Football: Forest on course

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The Independent Online
Charlton Athletic. .0

Nottingham Forest. .1

Lee 28

Attendance: 12,330

NOTTINGHAM FOREST remain on course to accompany Crystal Palace back into the Premiership following a hard- earned and entertaining win at The Valley yesterday. Frank Clark's mature side, loyally lauded by a substantial entourage, extended their advantage over third-placed Leicester to six points courtesy of Jason Lee's fine first-half strike.

Clark combined cheerfulness and caution afterwards, knowing that Forest return to south-east London next Sunday to meet Millwall. 'I think Palace are promoted,' the Forest manager said. 'But we've still got a lot of work to do.'

So have Charlton if they are to secure a play-off place which, after six defeats in their last seven games, appears to be slipping away from them, particularly as they face an awkward run-in. 'We'll battle on,' Steve Gritt, Charlton's joint manager, said.

His team began confidently, the increasingly promising Darren Pitcher and Mickey Bennett bringing fine saves from Mark Crossley in the opening 10 minutes. Forest, though, settled soon after and always looked the more clinical on the break, particularly when Ian Woan began finding Lee with astute passes.

Moments after Robert Rosario had missed a sitter, Lee showed his equally tall striking partner how to finish. Played on-side by Scott Minto, Lee collected a quick through ball from Woan before shooting confidently past Mike Salmon.

Lee's recent arrival at a cost of pounds 200,000 from Southend was well timed. 'Jason has given us a physical presence,' said Clark.

Charlton, to their credit, took the setback in their stride, and with Pitcher rarely wasting possession and Bennett giving Stuart Pearce problems, an equaliser was always possible. One Bennett dash just before half-time took the Charlton player past Pearce and his cross to the far post fell invitingly to Paul Gorman, who was denied only by the upright.

Pearce, watched by Don Howe, showed the more potent side to his game in the 55th minute with a powerful free kick from 35 yards which cannoned off the woodwork.

Charlton also experienced an unhappy knock on wood 15 minutes later when Garry Nelson, put through by Pitcher, volleyed against the bar. 'It was a hard-earned victory,' Clark added. Forest's visit to the New Den next weekend promises as hard a test.