Football: Forest out of luck as John twice hits the woodwork

Nottingham Forest 0 Fulham 0
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FULHAM MOVED up a place to sixth in the First Division but only after surviving a determined effort by Forest to halt their slide towards the bottom. David Platt's young team, who had plunged to 20th in the table after winning only once in two months, deserved better than a point after the Trinidadian striker Stern John twice hit the woodwork in a sustained second-half assault.

At no stage did Forest present themselves as a team in trouble, even though Crewe's win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday meant that they entered this test with only goal difference keeping them out of the bottom three. Fulham, who have won only twice in 12 League matches despite knocking Tottenham out of the Worthington Cup, were forced to devote most of their energy to defending.

The result does little to ease Forest's current predicament but the manager Platt can at least draw encouragement from his side's performance. "We deserved to win and it is a while since I've been able to say that," he said. "It was the kind of performance we need to build confidence."

Platt is particularly pleased with the way his younger players have responded in adversity. The 18-year-old midfielder David Prutton caught the eye particularly and Andy Gray, the 22-year-old former Leeds winger, always offered a threat on the right flank. Another teenager, the centre back Kevin Dawson, made an accomplished debut.

Gray, who came to Forest after George Graham froze him out at Leeds, has been a player short of confidence until recently but injuries have created a chance for him in Platt's side. After supplying the corner from which Riccardo Scimeca's volley skimmed the crossbar after 26 minutes, another of Gray's positive thrusts set up an opening from which Forest should have gone ahead when John controlled his cross and teed up his strike partner Dougie Freedman, only for the opportunity to be wasted.

Not until the closing minutes of the first half did Fulham do better than mount sporadic attacks. Scimeca's defensive header almost handed a gift to Geoff Horsfield and then the defender Kit Symons, perhaps surprised not to be ruled offside when Steve Finnan chipped a ball over the top, shot tamely at Dave Beasant.

Forest's enthusiasm was undimmed, however, and there was encouragement for a recently sceptical crowd when Prutton ran at Fulham from inside his own half and dipped a shoulder to leave Andy Melville floundering. Only the finish - a shot straight at Maik Taylor - let the youngster down.

Symons missed a chance when, unmarked, he turned Steve Hayward's free kick wide but Forest responded positively. Freedman, cutting in from the right, found John, whose shot struck the foot of Taylor's left-hand post. Forest found luck in short supply again with 13 minutes left when the substitute Marlon Harewood dug out a pass from a tricky spot on the left and John hit the woodwork a second time, the ball this time rebounding into Taylor's safe hands from the underside of the bar.

Nottingham Forest (3-5-2): Beasant; Scimeca, Hjelde, Dawson; Gray, Prutton, Bart-Williams, Quashie, Brennan; Freedman (Harewood, 71), John. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Merino, Allou, Foy.

Fulham (5-3-2): Taylor; Finnan (Hayles, 54), Symons, Melville, Coleman (Morgan, 78), Brevett; Davis, Clark, Hayward; Horsfield, Peschisolido. Substitutes not used: Hahnemann (gk), Collins, Trollope.

Referee: D Laws (Whitley Bay).

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