Football: Gemmill gains Forest justice

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The Independent Online
Tranmere Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Nottingham Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

FOREST fans, who used to wonder whether there was life after Brian Clough, have lately bestowed similar talismanic status on Stan Collymore. But yesterday's victory, which took Frank Clark's team into the First Division play-off places for the first time since September, was achieved without their injured top scorer.

They left it late to secure a seventh win in eight games, Colin Cooper and Scot Gemmill scoring in the final 11 minutes after Tranmere had led from the 29th minute through John Aldridge's 13th goal of the season. Forest's success, reward for an improved second-half display, not only extended their unbeaten run to 14 matches but also prevented the home side from returning to the top of the table.

Forest, who receive Tranmere in the Coca-Cola Cup quarter-finals a week on Wednesday, left Birkenhead believing justice had been served. Mark Crossley, their goalkeeper, brought down Pat Nevin as he skipped past him, but maintained that the Tranmere winger had dived. Aldridge scored easily from the spot.

Tranmere were worth their lead. Crossley had tipped over an Aldridge header and Ged Brannan was close with a low drive, while Forest seemed reluctant to commit men in support of Collymore's stand-in, Lee Glover. This was strange, since at one point Tranmere had an untried partnership at the heart of their back four, and were forced to replace both centre-backs by the start of the second half.

For a time, Tranmere attained the initiative, Crossley making fine saves to deny Brannan and Kenny Irons. But Stuart Pearce was beginning to drive forward ominously and Forest had two penalty appeals of their own rejected before equalising in the 79th minute.

Cooper, who has made a habit of stealing forward to score vital late goals, repeated the feat by running on to a David Phillips pass and beating Eric Nixon with an angled shot. Five minutes later, with Tranmere fading fast on a heavy pitch, Kingsley Black's deep cross was cut back by Glover for Gemmill to side- foot the winner from a yard.

Tranmere Rovers (4-4-2): Nixon; Mungall, Higgins (McGreal, 32), Hughes (Martindale, h/t), Nolan; Morrissey, Irons, Brannan, Nevin; Malkin, Aldridge. Substitute not used: Coyne (gk).

Nottingham Forest (4-5-1): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Stone (Bull, 78), Webb, Phillips, Gemmill, Woan (Black h/t); Glover. Substitute not used: Wright (gk)

Referee: A Dawson (Jarrow).