Football: Le Tissier rises to deflate Forest

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Southampton. . . . .1

Le Tissier pen 54

Nottingham Forest. .1

Collymore 43

Attendance: 14,185

AS ASTON VILLA and Tottenham Hotspur will testify, Southampton are no team to do you a favour when you need it. Nottingham Forest left The Dell yesterday denied a second chance to take over at the top of the Premiership. In truth, their performance scarcely merited such exalted status.

They remain unbeaten, however, a record which a spirited Southampton side threatened to tear up throughout most of an intermittently entertaining game, whose five bookings testified to an irritable undercurrent.

A Stan Collymore goal just before the interval looked to have given Forest the necessary edge, but by the end they were more than grateful that Matthew Le Tissier's second-half resurgence could only yield an equaliser from the penalty spot.

Le Tissier, scorer of two goals against Spurs last Monday, seemed content to bask in that glory for the first half, offering the sort of Invisible Man impersonation that his detractors store as evidence against him. He should have scored with a header from Neil Heaney's cross deep from the left but sent it straight at Mark Crossley.

Too often he abandoned a forward move for a long ball in the general direction of Iain Dowie's head, but with the Norwegian international Alf Inge Haland in confident form on his Premiership debut, the aerial route proved fruitless. Instead it was the left-wing runs of Heaney and the incisive passing of Jim Magilton which created Southampton's chances. Crossley saved well from Heaney as early as the second minute while Magilton twice went close.

Forest, despite the confidence their unbeaten start must have given them, seemed content to play on the counter-attack. Bryan Roy, so dazzling last week, could not get into the game. Lars Bohinen looked Forest's most incisive player, although his contribution to Collymore's goal just before half-time was a less-than-elegant up-and-under. No matter, Collymore chased, won possession, turned inside both Francis Benali and Simon Charlton before beating Bruce Grobbelaar inside his near post with a scuffed left-foot shot to give Forest a thoroughly undeserved lead.

Le Tissier decided to turn it on from the start of the second half, throwing himself into attack at every opportunity and even being glimpsed chasing back to the half-way line to tackle Collymore. But it was Bohinen's bungling foul on Le Tissier which had the impact on the score. From about 30 yards out, Le Tissier precisely chipped a free-kick, finding Dowie's run into the box. Des Lyttle and Haland were caught dozing, and all they could offer were the two slices of bread for a Dowie sandwich. Le Tissier calmly stroked the penalty into Crossley's bottom right-hand corner and Forest sensed what kind of day it would be.

Forest did threaten a brief revival when Roy conjured up a 25-yard shot which brushed Grobbelaar's post, but Southampton looked the only team that really wanted to win. Their ambitions are obviously limited, but that need not stop them producing coherent and exciting football. Their new pounds 500,000 signing from Barcelona, the Dane Ronnie Ekelund, showed some nice touches in the 10 minutes which he was allowed.

The fact that Southampton rely so heavily on Le Tissier is obvious. But they proved yesterday that they have a team which can more than cope when their star is not shining.