Football: Pearce tips the balance

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Manchester City. . . .2

Nottingham Forest. . .2

CITY'S hopes of restoring some thrust to their season after a September sag were thwarted by Forest's adeptness at the counter- punch. After three defeats and four matches without scoring, City led twice with goals created by Niall Quinn's aerial presence, but Forest's lightning breakaways twice found them fatally stretched.

For Forest the point won is another step forward in their rehabilitation. The legacy of six straight defeats is still starkly illustrated in the Premier League table, but the three consecutive draws that have followed reinforce their belief that they are too good to be relegation prospects.

Certainly there was no evidence that their confidence is wearing thin. Even with pools of water to dance around on a saturated pitch, their midfield wove magical patterns. But somehow all the intricacies lacked a focal point and their urgent need is to find a central striker.

City, on the other hand, knew precisely where to aim and it gave them the lead at more or less the same point in each half. First Quinn's backward header from Keith Curle's free-kick dropped for Rick Holden to make his mark and then the Irishman's challenge on Mark Crossley for Terry Phelan's centre set up Fitzroy Simpson.

But what Forest lack when they have to make the running they make up for when their opponents are applying the pressure, and City over-committed themselves twice to disastrous effect. With Phelan well forward, Toddy Orlygsson set Gary Crosby free on the right. His pass inside found Nigel Clough and Ray McKinnon arrived on the left to score his first goal for the club he joined from Dundee United in the summer.

In front a second time, City should have remained there, but with seven minutes to go Stuart Pearce accelerated out of defence to catch them cold again on the left, and continued his run after releasing the ball to Clough to receive Gary Bannister's pass inside the penalty area and beat Tony Coton.

Manchester City: T Coton; I Brightwell, T Phelan, S McMahon (P Reid, 53 min), K Curle, A Hill, D White, M Sheron, N Quinn, F Simpson, R Holden. Subs not used: M Margetson (gk), A Mike. Player-manager: P Reid.

Nottingham Forest: M Crossley; B Laws, S Pearce, R McKinnon, C Tiler, R Keane, G Crosby, S Gemmill, N Clough, G Bannister, T Orlygsson. Subs not used: S Chettle, A Marriott (gk), L Glover. Manager: B Clough.

Referee: R Milford (Bristol).

Goals: Holden (1-0, 17 min); McKinnon (1-1, 56 min); Simpson (2-1, 64 min); Pearce (2-2, 83 min).