Football: Forest's resurgence gains momentum

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest 4 Norwich City 1

Three goals in four minutes early in the second half, two of them to the former England player Geoff Thomas, swept Nottingham Forest to the top of the embryonic First Division table last night. Dave Bassett's restyled side will encounter far sterner opposition than Norwich, but after the icy chill of relegation this was Friday night fever at the City Ground.

After the opening-day success at Port Vale and the demolition of Doncaster, Forest's revivalist mood was punctured by a Norwich goal on seven minutes. Having left Alan Rogers trailing, Neil Adams cut back a cross which panicked Des Lyttle into playing the ball straight at Marco Pascolo. The startled goalkeeper cleared only as far as Keith O'Neill, who beat him with a side- footed shot from 15 yards.

Forest, prompted by Steve Stone, responded positively. Pierre Van Hooijdonk had already seen Andy Marshall tip over one volley, yet when the latter parried a drive by Thierry Bonalair into the air after 23 minutes, the Dutchman nipped in to head his third goal of the season.

Kevin Campbell was close to putting Forest ahead 60 seconds later, only for Victor Segura, Norwich's new Spanish sweeper, to clear with his keeper beaten. A collision between O'Neill and Stone led to the England midfielder being helped off with his face bloodied and the Norwich man being roundly booed, though Stone was to return after rapid running repairs.

A goal for Stone on his first home appearance in a year would have brought the house down and would have confirmed what can only have been a favourable impression for the watching Glenn Hoddle. However, when put through by Scot Gemmill, he scooped the ball into the Trent End.

Forest's pressure was spectacularly rewarded by a flurry of goals around the hour mark. Thomas nudged them in front from Bonalair's low cross after good work by Van Hooijdonk and Campbell dispatched a fierce angled volley beyond Marshall following a pass by Gemmill. Norwich were in total disarray and soon backed off fatally to allow Thomas to fire the fourth from 25 yards.

It was his team's 13th goal in seven days, and No 14 almost arrived when Dean Saunders quivered the bar from long range. Forest, playing a more traditional, passing game than that with which Bassett is associated, must already be contemplating a Premiership return. Norwich have a 100 per cent record of a less palatable kind, and it would have been worse but for the agile resistance of Marshall.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Pascolo; Lyttle, Hjelde, Chettle, Rogers; Stone (Johnson, 68), Gemmill, Thomas (Saunders, 76), Bonalair; Van Hooijdonk, Campbell. Substitute not used: Armstrong.

Norwich City (1-2-5-2): Marshall; Segura; Newman, Scott (Mills, 73); Adams, Polston, Bradshaw (Bellamy, 39), O'Neill, Sutch; Eadie, Roberts. Substitute not used: Fleck.

Referee: J Kirkby (Sheffield).