Football: Forest find their own `new Yorke'

Nottingham Forest 2 Portsmouth 0
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The Independent Online
STERN JOHN, Nottingham Forest's Caribbean recruit from the American game, left Alan Ball stern faced after a dazzling First Division debut last night. John scored one goal and created another in the opening minutes of his English career, ending a run of four defeats for David Platt's side while condemning Ball's Portsmouth to a ninth loss in 12 games.

Perhaps understandably after Forest's wretched form, which had left them in their lowest position since Brian Clough arrived in 1975, the pounds 1.5m signing of John from the American club Columbus Crew did not spark an upsurge of interest. Only 13,841 spectators - nearly 3,000 below the City Ground average - braved the wet and windy conditions, although the Trinidadian's international striking partner, Dwight Yorke, was among them.

The Forest faithful could have been excused for wondering whether, in fact, Platt had somehow persuaded Sir Alex Ferguson to let him have Yorke, his former Aston Villa team-mate, for the night. Wearing a red shirt emblazoned with the same number, 19, that the Manchester United man wears, John's stature and body language were uncannily similar.

Pleasingly for all concerned - apart from those in the Pompey camp - John wasted little time in proving that he shares Yorke's predatory instinct. Only five minutes had elapsed when the newcomer ghosted in to convert Jim Brennan's low cross from the left at the near post with only his second touch in English football.

John had barely doubled his touch tally when he played a major part in Forest's second goal five minutes later. He showed clever control and awareness as he laid off Chris Bart-Williams' pass from the right to Mikkel Beck. The Dane duly stroked the first goal of his loan spell from Derby.

Portsmouth regrouped in the second half, switching to three at the back for long periods. Forest, however, restricted them mainly to long-range and looked to John's speed of thought and movement as an outlet.

Platt said: "When I went out there and saw him [John], I couldn't really see any similarity with Dwight. When I watched him on video there were certain movements that made me think: `God, that's him'. But it's unfair to tag him with that because Dwight is one of the top three in the world."

Ball conceded that John had made "a smashing debut" but added "from our point of view his goal was shocking because my player should have cleared it and didn't. You can't legislate for people making schoolboy errors. The only plus I take out of tonight is that we could have gone under but we didn't."

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Mannini (Doig, 62), Scimeca, Hjelde, Brennan; Prutton, Johnson, Bart-Williams, Rogers (Quashie, 83); John (Freedman, 87), Beck. Substitutes not used: Gray, Beasant (gk).

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Flahavan; Crowe, Whitbread, Moore (Pamarot, 62), Awford; Panopoulos (Igoe, 58), Brown, McLoughlin, Robinson; Claridge, Bradbury. Substitutes not used: Phillips, Whittingham, Petterson (gk).

Referee: E Wolstenholme (Blackburn).