Football: Owls pick off easy prey in Forest gloom

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest. . . .1

Sheffield Wednesday. . .2

ON THE day when it emerged that Brian Clough is to be given the freedom of Nottingham - 'while he's still in charge', a city council official explained tactfully - Forest granted it to Wednesday's makeshift strikeforce with dire consequences.

Barely 24 hours after becoming colleagues, the odd coupling of Paul Warhurst and Mark Bright were allowed the kind of liberty that makes it painfully evident why Clough still hopes to persuade Craig Short, Notts County's pounds 2.7m-rated centre-back, to join Forest rather than Blackburn.

Warhurstscored his first goal for Wednesday. And Bright marked his arrival from Crystal Palace by making the second for Graham Hyde, ensuring that the anniversary of Clough's greatest adversity, his sacking by Leeds in 1974, left him at his lowest ebb since then.

A late header by Gary Bannister could not prevent a sixth successive defeat, Forest's worst sequence since they were last relegated in 1972. Clough already appears to be gripped by a siege mentality. In his programme column he exhorted all connected with the club to 'rally round and pull one way'. Dunkirk spirit: as close to Europe as Forest are likely to come this season.

At least the Trent End took the call to heart. They sang his name and received reciprocal salutes. But when he leapt up in the closing minutes, several voices bellowed 'Siddown]' in a tone betraying once-unthinkable signs of dissent.

By then, Wednesday's three-match losing streak was history. Warhurst had lost his markers easily to score. Hyde later left Stuart Pearce and Steve Chettle trailing before netting.

Wednesday, with two new strikers and David Hirst on the way back, can only improve. Reasons for Forest to be cheerful in the post-Des Walker era are less obvious. Viv Anderson, once Clough's right-back, insisted that he would put 'any money' on his former manager putting things right. 'One win,' the veteran Wednesday defender said. 'That's all he needs to restore confidence.'

Trevor Francis, whose header against Malmo brought the European Cup to Nottingham 13 years ago, seemed unsure where that elusive win might come from. 'Who do they play next?' the Wednesday player-manager asked. 'Coventry? Hmmm.' Pregnant silence. Still, Forest had played 'some excellent football', he said, adding: 'Things just didn't go for them.'

Unless Clough enters the transfer market in which he has never been comfortable, and does so soon, it might just become the epitaph to an extraordinary managerial career.

Goals: Warhurst (40) 0-1; Hyde (57) 0-2; Bannister (87) 1-2.

Nottingham Forest: Crossley; Laws, Pearce, Chettle, Tiler, Keane (McKinnon, h/t), Crosby, Gemmill, Clough, Bannister, Black. Substitutes not used: Glover, Marriott (gk).

Sheffield Wednesday: Woods; Harkes, Anderson, Palmer, Shirtliff, Warhurst (Watson, 83), Hyde, Waddle (Wilson, 70), Bright, Bart-Williams, Worthington. Substitute not used: Pressman (gk).

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).