Football: Hughes to the rescue

West Bromwich Albion 1 Nottingham Forest 1
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The Independent Online
LEE HUGHES came to West Brom's rescue last night when, for the second home game, they needed a late equaliser to remain undefeated. Hughes's header cancelled out Dougie Freedman's goal, scored just past the hour, which had promised to reward Nottingham Forest's more cerebral approach.

David Platt's team had to withstand a fair amount of pressure after Freedman had nudged home Alan Rogers' hard-driven cross. They will look back with regret on the amount of room they allowed Hughes to turn in Kevin Kilbane's initial header, although there was a strong suspicion of offside.

Carlton Palmer's winning goal against Grimsby did not impress Platt sufficiently to grant the midfielder, who has not so far fallen into line with the new manager's thinking, a starting appearance. He watched from the bench as Forest paraded their three newcomers from Italy, while Albion gave a recall to their own Italian, the Under-20 international Enzo Maresca.

For long periods of the first half Maresca was forced to chase the game with the rest of the home team's midfield. You would not expect the Forest boss to try to play anything but a cultured, passing game but it is still early days for them and their initial threat came from set pieces which, while cleverly conceived, failed to draw Alan Miller into a proper save.

Albion never looked comfortable when the ball found its way to Alan Rogers, pushing forward strongly and encouraged by Daniel Gabbidon's inability to make a decent clearance. Other home players were also struggling to make their mark, though after Richard Sneekes and Hughes combined neatly the Albion talisman fell heavily in the box and the Hawthorns' hopes rose substantially.

Quite rightly the penalty appeal was looked upon with scorn. On that occasion Salvatore Matrecano had been the challenging defender; when Hughes got away again in the 26th minute this time Moreno Mannini came across with impressive speed to intervene.

Chris Bart-Williams set up Nigel Quashie for an attempt that picked up a deflection and ended up a closer call than might otherwise have been the case. Palmer, replacing Mannini, joined Quashie at the start of the second half and immediately saw Gianluca Petrachi shun a glorious scoring opportunity. To his undoubted relief he then noticed the raised offside flag.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Miller; Gabbidon, Burgess, Raven, Van Blerk; Sneekes, Flynn, Maresca (Carbon, 83), Kilbane; De Freitas, Hughes. Substitutes not used: Whitehead (gk), Quinn, Evans, Oliver.

Nottingham Forest (5-3-2): Crossley; Louis-Jean, Matrecano, Mannini (Palmer, h-t), Chettle, Rogers; Scimeca, Bart-Williams, Quashie; Freedman, Petrachi (Harewood, 78). Substitutes not used:

Beasant (gk), Allou, Doig.

Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt).

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