Football: Stone leaves sad Saints rock bottom

Southampton 1 Le Tissier pen 89 Nottingham Forest 2 Darcheville 52, Stone 68 Attendance: 14,942
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The Independent Online
THIS TIME there were only two goals conceded but it might so easily have been another five as a woeful Southampton slid to their third straight loss. With minimum close-season outlay, Forest have bedded down into a purposeful and intelligently functioning side, and here Steve Stone was back to the form which won him a place in the England team.

Against all expectation, Forest are not missing the sulking Pierre Van Hooijdonk. His replacement, Jean-Claude Darcheville, on loan from the French club Rennes for the season, struck a fine goal - his first for the club - early in the second half before Stone capped a wonderful afternoon's work with the second goal.

On the rare occasions when the Saints got their act together in front of goal they found Dave Beasant, the goalkeeper they let go to Forest for nothing last season, in unbeatable mood. The locals offered him warm applause at the end; in truth there was little else for them to applaud, apart from Matthew Le Tissier's injury-time penalty, and the Saints were roundly booed off the park.

Having warned that he would not tolerate any repeat of the previous week's debacle at Charlton, the Southampton manager, Dave Jones, made three changes, one of which was the return of Le Tissier to the starting line-up. Whatever Southampton had been working on during the week it did not include a session on how to beat the offside trap. Time after time Egil Ostenstad and Mark Hughes were caught out, and when the flag stayed down as Carlton Palmer sprinted through he seemed so surprised that he twice allowed Beasant to beat away his scoring bids. Forest came closest to scoring, though, when a Geoff Thomas header hit an upright.

Southampton were even luckier just past the half-hour when Stuart Ripley, already in Dermot Gallagher's book for fouling Scot Gemmill, brought down the same player as he burst into the penalty area. It looked a straightforward award but the referee turned away vehement Forest complaints.

Forest were not long in establishing authority in the second half as the industry of Stone and Gemmill opened up huge gaps in Southampton's labouring defence. Darcheville was offered a swift chance to show his incredible speed off the mark before, in the 55th minute, he put Forest in front. Inevitably, it was Stone who played him into space on the edge of the area but the rest was all down to him as he dragged the ball wide of two defenders before shooting past Paul Jones.

Before Forest established complete superiority there was a chance for Southampton to equalise but Ostenstad's header was turned over by Beasant. The visitors increased their lead when Gemmill slid a pinpoint pass into the area and Stone fastened on to a rebound after Jones had saved his first shot.

As Forest played out time they were belatedly and rather harshly punished as Le Tissier fell under Thierry Bonalair's challenge. Le Tissier got up to score the penalty, but there was no time for an equaliser.

Dave Jones said: "Another defeat is a big shock to me because our expectations for this season were so high. But we are playing as individuals and it is annoying and baffling that even with the quality we've brought in we are not performing."