Football: Saviour Martyn out on a limb

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest 1

Stone 85

Leeds United 1

Halle 53

Attendance: 23,911

AT LEAST Forest managed a goal after four blank games and they could so easily have done better than a draw in a pulsating finish. But Leeds, reduced to 10 men with the sending-off after 31 minutes of Danny Granville, had to thank Nigel Martyn for a sensational display.

The substitute Gunnar Halle put Leeds in front after 52 minutes and they clung ferociously to this lead until Steve Stone, again Forest's hardest- working player, headed the equaliser five minutes from the end.

Leeds might be without a manager but they are not without purpose. That they had not come to pussyfoot around was made clear after only five seconds when Granville flattened Stone out on the right touchline. Then Granville's next victim was Jon Olav Hjelde.

That referee Alan Wilkie already had his eye on Granville was apparent when, after only seven minutes, he was booked for a minor misdemeanour, playing the ball after the whistle went. By then Leeds had spurned a glorious chance. Jimmy Hasselbaink was allowed to run on, though he appeared to be offside, but scooped his shot well over.

A Forest fondness for playing the ball around in defence looked a risky option with Leeds hunting eagerly and Dave Beasant claimed Hasselbaink's low cross before Harry Kewell.

Granville's involvement in the match lasted just over half an hour. Another ruthless flattening job, this time on Thierry Bonalair, had Mr Wilkie brandishing the red card, at which enraged Leeds players besieged the official and the captain, Lucas Radebe, laid hands on Wilkie's chest before being ordered away.

Forest began to make brisk use of their advantage and Chris Bart-Williams suddenly cut inside and rattled Martyn's left-hand post from 25 yards.

Just before the interval, Neil Shipperley unleashed a similar effort, this time from 20 yards, which seemed to catch Martyn by surprise and bounced off the goalkeeper's chest.

For the second half Leeds substituted Stephen McPhail with Halle. If it was a move designed to stiffen the defence it soon produced a much more uplifting effect. But first Radebe had to head a Scot Gemmill lob off the line when, for once, Martyn was found wanting.

In the 52nd minute, Alan Rogers was booked for a foul on Hasselbaink. After the free-kick had come to nothing, the Austrian Martin Hiden, receiving from Hasselbaink, lofted a high cross to the far post where the substitute Halle rose above everyone else to head firmly down past Beasant.

As a precaution, Forest took off Rogers and brought on Andy Johnson and soon after replaced the disappointing Jean-Claude Darcheville with Andy Gray as Forest settled down to besiege Martyn.

However, they found the Leeds keeper in international form. He soared to turn over Craig Armstrong's header, which seemed destined for the top corner, then flung himself to his right to turn aside a thunderous free- kick by Steve Chettle. Next, as the Forest supporters began chanting "We want a striker", Martyn repelled a Johnson foray on goal with his legs.

Leeds closed things up even further by taking off Hasselbaink and it seemed their defensive efforts would pay dividends. Then, with five minutes left, Bonalair made ground down the right, cut inside on to his left foot and slung over a centre to which Stone, running in, applied a perfect glancing header.

Forest were now flat out for a win and Radebe did well to block Armstrong's close-in effort. Forest sent on Dougie Freedman in place of Gemmill and at once the substitute hit a screamer which Martyn somehow blocked.

Then, with Radebe carted off on a stretcher in injury time, Martyn pulled off another astonishing save from a Chris Bart-Williams free-kick.