Football: Forest's finish falls flat

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest. .0 Arsenal. . . . . . .1

STILL Brian Clough refuses to admit to concern. Forest have not won in the League since they beat Liverpool in their opening match, and the run of draws they had hoped might signal a recovery was ended yesterday by Alan Smith's first goal of the season and Arsenal's third win in a row.

But, old dog that he is, Clough has little interest in new tricks. While those Forest players not on international duty went to Jersey last week, the manager stayed at home to prune the roses and contemplate. He came in from the garden to pronounce that the Forest style was the only one he knew. Nothing would change.

But style alone wins little beyond compliments and Forest have been bottom of the table for so long now that even Clough concedes that he will be worried if they remain there a month from now.

For the moment, however, they continue to follow Clough's doctrine with football of delightful precision and on that count their largest crowd of the season, swelled by the addition of the pounds 4.2m, 7,500- seat Bridgford Road stand, cannot have been disappointed.

But only goals matter in the end and Forest could not deliver. After 25 minutes in which Arsenal were rarely in the contest, Gary Bannister, Nigel Clough and Scot Gemmill combined brilliantly to set up Toddy Orlygsson in the area, but the Danish-born Icelandic international shot over.

More wonders followed. Clough's deft touches released Gemmill twice and gave Bannister a wonderful heading opportunity just after the hour, but no reward. A goal was deserved when Gary Crosby linked with Bannister at the edge of the area with 20 minutes to go, but the winger's left- foot shot hit the post and ran along the goal-line before being scooped to safety.

But, against a defence as robust as Arsenal's, Forest needed to add a bit of muscle to their bustle. Alan Smith himself has been mentioned as a possible transfer target if and when Clough decides to replace Teddy Sheringham. He could do worse.

Smith created a much greater impression than Ian Wright, whose bid to restore his reputation after last week's unhappy England performance ended in disappointment. Stuart Pearce left him in a heap after the first tackle of the match and thereafter Wright was fairly anonymous. He was replaced with 15 minutes left.

Smith put away the decisive goal seven minutes before half- time following a rare period of Arsenal pressure, steering the ball in at the far post after Steve Bould had headed on Paul Merson's left- wing cross.

Nottingham Forest: M Crossley; G Charles, S Pearce, R Keane, C Tiler, R McKinnon (K Black, 68 min), G Crosby, S Gemmill, N Clough, G Bannister, T Orlygsson. Subs not used: S Chettle, A Marriott (gk). Manager: B Clough.

Arsenal: D Seaman; L Dixon, N Winterburn, D Hillier, S Bould, T Adams, J Jensen (C Pates, 87 min), I Wright (A Limpar, 75 min), A Smith, P Merson, K Campbell. Sub not used: A Miller (gk). Manager: G Graham.

Referee: J Worrall (Warrington).

Goal: Smith (0-1, 38 min).