Football: Keane's enthusiasm wasted

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The Independent Online
Queen's Park Rangers. . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Nottingham Forest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

WHAT a show - Les Ferdinand v Les Miserables. The notion that Nottingham Forest are too good to go down has foundered on a defence that is too fallible to resist an above-average predator. Ferdinand's first senior hat-trick, which coldly exposed and exploited Forest frailties, has, barring a minor miracle by the man whose acolytes believe he can walk on the Trent, ensured that Brian Clough will soon be pitting his wits against the likes of Peterborough and Barnsley.

The supporters and most of the players deserve better. A 4,000-strong choir motored down the M1 to applaud and laud their team and manager for 90 minutes. The boos directed Clough's way after last Wednesday's home defeat were singularly absent at Loftus Road as the diehards, in terrace-talk, sung their 'hearts out for the lads'.

Of the young men who are paid to wear the red shirt on match-days, three stood out: Roy Keane, who exuded total commitment and Total Football, Kingsley Black, scorer of two resplendent goals, and the Premier League's most skilful centre- half, Nigel Clough, who should really be playing in the hole rather than attempting to dig Forest out of one.

How long these three will remain at the City Ground if Forest fall is a matter of much discussion - not least between managers and chairman elsewhere. Keane even has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave; Forest stipulate that his price will be a minimum pounds 3m if he signs for a domestic club or pounds 5m overseas - a modest evaluation on Saturday's evidence.

The industrious Irishman ensured that Forest's attacks never wavered throughout a splendid match. Gary Bannister broke the ice against his former club with a simple strike but, by the break, the red rearguard was blushing with embarrassment. Poor communication between Clough, Carl Tiler and the hesitant Mark Crossley allowed Ferdinand to steal in for a flicked first; it was soon 2-1, Clive Wilson adding a penalty to punish Gary Charles's push on Andy Sinton.

The goals, like Stan Flashman's tickets, were coming two together, and a double dose of Black magic - both unstoppable shots - restored Forest's lead with a vengeance. Until Ferdinand's finale. The England striker displayed his versatility with two nicely judged close-range strikes, the first after rounding Crossley, the second from a stooping header. The Loft's roof was almost lifted in celebration as Gerry Francis's fine side rose to fifth in the table, becoming London's leading club.

Forest have failed to win a League game in the capital for 16 months and with two more trips pending, to Arsenal and Wimbledon, plus Spurs' visit today, Clough's survival plans look to have gone up in the Smoke.

Goals: Bannister (8) 0-1; Ferdinand (38) 1-1; Wilson pen (45) 2-1; Black (49) 2-2; Black (54) 2-3; Ferdinand (71)

3-3; Ferdinand (72) 4-3.

Queen's Park Rangers: Roberts; Bardsley, Wilson, Wilkins, Peacock, McDonald, Impey, Holloway, Ferdinand, Allen, Sinton. Substitutes not used: Brevett, Bailey, Stejskal (gk).

Nottingham Forest: Crossley; Charles, Williams, Stone, Tiler, Keane, Black, Bannister, Clough, Rosario, Gemmill. Substitutes not used: Orlygsson, Kilford, Marriott (gk).

Referee: P Foakes (Clacton-on-Sea).