Football: Forest well on way

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The Independent Online
Derby County. . . . . .0

Nottingham Forest. . . 2

FOREST'S sweetest victory of the season, on the territory of their neighbours and promotion rivals, leaves them needing only two points from their final three games to ensure a prompt return to the Premiership.

Frank Clark was not the only manager with cause to savour last night's result at the Baseball Ground. Derby's defeat means Graham Taylor's Wolves can deprive them of a play-off spot by taking full points from their remaining three matches.

Forest deserved their success. In the frenzied atmosphere generated by a packed and partisan crowd - with a further 8,200 watching on giant screens at the City Ground - they played the more controlled football. Once they had taken the lead midway through the first half, the outcome was seldom in doubt.

Craig Short and Stan Collymore spent most of the evening literally wrestling for possession, and it was a tangle between the two that led to the first goal after 22 minutes. Stuart Pearce hovered ominously over the free-kick, only for Colin Cooper to rush in and score with an angled drive from 25 yards.

Derby's best effort was a thunderous volley from similar range by John Harkes in the 54th minute. But within four minutes they were undone by the largesse of Gary Charles, who joined them from Forest last summer. Martin Taylor set events in motion with a weak punch under pressure from Collymore.

Instead of clearing upfield, Charles attempted a back-pass to his goalkeeper - who was not there anyway - and was spared the indignity of an own- goal only by the fact that the ball was diverted into the net by Steve Stone as his former club- mate made a token challenge. 'Nice one Gary,' the red hordes crowed, the last song they expected to be singing.

Derby County (4-4-2): Taylor; Charles (Kavanagh, 76), Short, Williams, Nicholson (Hayward, 79); Harkes, Cowans, Pembridge, Simpson; Kitson, Gabbiadini. Substitute not used: Sutton (gk).

Nottingham Forest (4-5-1): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Stone, Bohinen, Phillips, Gemmill, Woan; Collymore. Substitutes not used: Rosario, Tiler, Wright (gk).

Referee: J Worrall (Warrington).