Football: Forest survive through Keane

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest. . .1

Crystal Palace . . . .1

THE RELEGATION scrap at the bottom of the Premier League is becoming more fiercely contested with every game. Last night's instalment at the City Ground was short on skill and style, but what it lacked in quality it more than made up for in full-blooded passion and commitment.

Steve Coppell, the Crystal Palace manager, spoke afterwards of 'two teams more frightened about losing than wanting to win'. For Brian Clough's team, however, this was surely a match which they could not afford to draw.

Nottingham Forest's midwinter revival, which produced 16 points from eight games, is in danger of grinding to a halt, last night's draw having followed a home defeat by Manchester City five days earlier. Already without the injured Stuart Pearce and Neil Webb, Forest will now be without the suspended Roy Keane and Robert Rosario for the next two matches.

Rosario, making his debut following his pounds 400,000 transfer from Coventry City, showed some promising touches, but whether he can provide the goal power Forest need is another matter. Forest's approach play was neat and creative, but with Eddie McGoldrick outstanding at sweeper Palace deserved their point.

Palace welcomed back two players after long-term injuries, Gareth Southgate and Dean Gordon, and it was Southgate who gave them the lead after 22 minutes. Chris Armstrong cleverly won the ball on the right to free Southgate, whose shot from the edge of the penalty area took a deflection and crept in at the far post.

Forest responded in classic counter-attacking style three minutes later. Palace had sent defenders forward for a free-kick and when ball was cleared to Ian Woan on the left he found Keane deep in the visitors' half with a magnificent 50-yard through pass. Keane brought the ball down before hitting a firm shot past Nigel Martyn from 20 yards.

Both teams continued to create chances and in the closing stages Palace found more and more space at the back of the Forest defence . But Coppell admitted afterwards: 'If we had been offered a point before the game I think we would have accepted it.'

Nottingham Forest: Crossley; Charles, Laws, Chettle, Tiler, Keane, Crosby, Orlygsson (Bannister, 73), Clough, Rosario, Woan. Substitutes not used: Black, Marriott (gk).

Crystal Palace: Martyn; Southgate, Gordon (Humphrey, 66), Coleman, Young, Thorn, Bowry (Ndah, 81), Thomas, Armstrong, Rodger, McGoldrick. Substitute not used: Woodman (gk).

Referee: I J Borrett (Harleston, Norfolk).

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