Football: Forest still find life a struggle

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The Independent Online
Chelsea. . . . . . . .0

Nottingham Forest. . .0

STILL rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, Nottingham Forest need all the good news they can get. Reasons to be cheerful are still few and far between, and while they never looked like beating a defensively efficient Chelsea side, they never looked remotely like winning either.

Chelsea took to the field with a sense of expectation, fuelled by the knowledge that the three points were theirs for the taking, but although Roy Keane is obviously a less permanent answer to their problems at centre-back than Laurent Blanc would have been, he was more than a match for Chelsea.

Robert Fleck missed the kind of chance that he used to relish at Carrow Road, a ball bouncing up just outside the penalty area - his time, and timing, will surely come. One suspects that Gary Bannister's has already been and gone. He has scored five goals this season but at Stamford Bridge yesterday, despite the four good chances that came his way, mostly via Nigel Clough, he never looked like adding to that tally. The visiting fans could have been forgiven for thinking that Teddy Sheringham was sold on much too early.

It was a familiar story. After a pedestrian first half both sides stepped up a gear only to discover that whatever gear they were in the ball had as much chance of hitting the back of the net as the butter-fingered Dave Beasant has of a recall to the Chelsea goal.

Beasant's replacement, Kevin Hitchcock, was only required to make one save, while Mark Crossley in the Forest goal had no opportunity to demonstrate that his own recent frailties are a thing of the past. Chelsea's best effort was a free-kick from David Lee, which whistled through a crowded area and bounced away to safety off Crossley's left-hand upright.

Clough did his artful best to start up the Forest motor, but with Keane in central defence the Forest midfield is a decidedly less fiery unit and supremacy was nowhere near won. The early signs were that Chelsea, who by replacing Vinny Jones with Nigel Spackman have a greater potential for enterprise, would melt down Keane's Icelandic understudy, Thorvaldur Orlygsson.

Not that Andy Townsend, who gave him a rough afternoon, had the skill to score when it mattered. Dennis Wise fed a ball into his path but Townsend's close control was found wanting and Forest survived one of the few crises that came their way.

Mick Harford showed a series of thoughtful touches but he too failed to make his presence felt where his side needed it. The one header that came his way went straight to Crossley.

When the home fans stood to cheer a gung-ho piece of defending by Frank Sinclair, one realised that they had little else to get excited about. In fact they had more reason to applaud Townsend's intervention when Bannister, supplied by Orlygsson, sprung the offside trap and, but for the Chelsea captain, would surely have scored.

Chelsea: K Hitchcock; G Hall (G Stuart, 65 min), F Sinclair, A Townsend, D Lee, M Donaghy, E Newton, R Fleck (J Spencer, 70 min), M Harford, N Spackman, D Wise. Sub not used: A Chamberlain (gk). Manager: I Porterfield.

Nottingham Forest: M Crossley; B Laws, S Pearce, R McKinnon, C Tiler, R Keane, G Crosby, S Gemmill, N Clough, G Bannister, T Orlygsson. Subs not used: S Chettle, L Glover, A Marriott (gk). Manager: B Clough.

Referee: J Worrall (Warrington).

(Photograph omitted)