Football: Iversen strikes but axe yet to hit Forest

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest 0

Tottenham Hotspur 1

Iversen 62

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 25,181

ALTHOUGH RESULTS elsewhere kept Forest's mathematical chances of survival alive, they played this match as though their interest in the Premiership had long since evaporated.

Even a depleted Spurs, with nothing left to play for but their places in George Graham's squad next season, had no difficulty in dominating a woeful Forest side who never looked like ending the dismal sequence which has left them adrift at the foot of the table. They have taken just one point from their last five matches.

It took a Steffen Iversen goal mid-way through the second half to put them out of their misery, but with better finishing and a bit of luck Tottenham would have turned their effortless superiority into victory long before that.

They had two reasonable penalty appeals turned down before half-time and then missed the one they were finally awarded. Iversen's volley which beat Mark Crossley at his near post after Christian Edwards' poor clearance had fallen into his path, was as inevitable as Forest's return to the First Division next season.

Graham kept David Ginola and Darren Anderton on the bench for a rest after Spurs' FA Cup semi-final defeat by Newcastle and there was never any danger of the Frenchman's skills having to be pressed into service, although Anderton was required to make an appearance as substitute when Les Ferdinand failed to appear for the second half.

"In terms of possession it was embarrassing," Graham said. "But you still have to convert that into chances and goals and I was disappointed when we went in level at half-time and I had a few words to say. We were more purposeful in the second half and we could have scored five or six."

Indeed, Edwards cleared off the line from Tim Sherwood before Iversen struck, and Allan Nielsen struck a drive narrowly wide in the closing minutes.

It would have made up for his penalty miss at the end of the first half after Richard Gough had brought down Iversen. But his side-footed shot was weak and Crossley dived to his right to smother it on the line.

The penalty award was third- time lucky for Spurs, who thought they should have had similar decisions when Chris Armstrong went down under challenges from Edwards and Andy Johnson.

Spurs also created plenty of opportunities in open play, their full-back Steve Carr skipping round the ponderous Forest back four with ease. Armstrong headed one of his crosses narrowly over the bar and Sol Campbell and Iversen were allowed to get in shots when defenders ought to have closed them down.

Forest, in contrast, did not manage a shot for 30 minutes, when Dougie Freedman, who carved out the few chances which came his side's way, ballooned a shot over the bar. He had another effort blocked by Luke Young, a shot saved by the Spurs goalkeeper Ian Walker, and saw the ball whipped off his toes by Carr when he seemed certain to score.

His striking partner, Neil Shipperley, had a miserable return to the Forest side and, although Pierre van Hooijdonk was in the starting line- up despite his angry reaction to being substituted at Derby, he made little impact.

Forest's best chance came in the dying moments when the substitute Marlon Harewood raced clear but Walker spread himself well to make a vital block. An equaliser would have been thoroughly undeserved although the Forest manager, Ron Atkinson, was as upbeat as ever. "All you can ask from any football team is that they give their utmost and my players did that today," he said.

He declined to speculate on his future at the City Ground, although others will doubtless do so as soon as Forest's fate is sealed, which on this evidence is likely to be at Aston Villa next Saturday.

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