Football: Rosy future for Lee

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The Independent Online
Charlton Athletic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Nottingham Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

NOTTINGHAM FOREST, to adapt a familiar refrain from last season, are too good to stay down.

Their March hare impression, when they raced through the First Division pack to arrive in second place, brought Frank Clark Manager of the Month honours. Saturday's announcement of the award was followed by an absorbing contest that confirmed Forest's status as favourites to gain the second automatic promotion place. For once, Forest will be happy to avoid the springtime road to Wembley.

Clark's team were not obviously superior to Charlton, play-off hopefuls who were slightly unlucky to succumb to their sixth defeat in seven League games. But, in three departments, not all overwhelmingly apparent at The Valley, Forest embody a Premiership side in waiting: defensive zeal embodied by Colin Cooper and Stuart Pearce, a broad range of passes emanating from the likes of Ian Woan in midfield to an attack that promises much.

Jason Lee, whose rapidly burgeoning career began inauspiciously at Charlton, has supplied a timely push to Forest's campaign since arriving from Southend. His partnership with Robert Rosario, whose best moments came in clearing corners, is unlikely to last; an eventual link-up of ex-Shrimpers, Lee and Stan Collymore, suspended on Saturday, will trouble the best of back-lines.

Lee, with his Ruud Gullit shock of hair, resembles a budding boxer rather than a heavyweight forward but the ungainly image is transformed when he receives the ball. While his knowledge of which runs to make requires development, the 22-year-old's confidence invariably makes him a threat in the box.

Charlton had almost gone ahead through Darren Pitcher and Mickey Bennett when Lee contributed a lively afternoon's most significant moment in the 28th minute. Woan placed a delightful pass through an indecisive defence to Lee, who, keeping his head and balance, soon had Salmon fishing from the net.

Goal: Lee (28) 0-1.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Salmon; Balmer (Walsh, 75), Chapple, McLeary, Minto; Bennett, Pitcher, Pardew, Robson; Leaburn, Gorman (Nelson, 68). Substitute not used: Vaughan (gk).

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Black, Stone, Phillips, Woan; Rosario (Bohinen, 84), Lee. Substitutes not used: Bull, Wright (gk).

Referee: G Willard (Worthing).