Football: Woan chips in at the last

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The Independent Online
Manchester City 3

Quinn 41, 54, Lomas 70

Nottingham Forest 3

Collymore 22, 53, Woan 89

Attendance: 23,150

IF THE ability to retrieve lost causes is a prerequisite in any aspirants to the Premiership title then Nottingham Forest certainly showed it yesterday. An extraordinary equaliser, more than a minute into injury time, kept their unbeaten record intact and moved them to within a point of Newcastle United at the top of the table.

There are other things you need to sustain a challenge, and some of those Forest lacked - notably in the goalkeeping department where Mark Crossley blundered time and again. But it was a match in which, for all the good football played, weaknesses rather than strengths were behind many of the decisive moments. This made for a terrific afternoon's entertainment, though of the kind appreciated more by spectators than managers.

A draw, in which there were a pair of goals each for Niall Quinn and Stan Collymore, was the right result. Forest made the most of their effectiveness on the break, but paid for their shakiness in defence; City attacked with fluency and persistence but, without the ball, kept falling into the rather obvious traps Forest set them.

Forest's approach was dictated to some extent by the absence of Bryan Roy, on duty with Holland. Frank Clark, the Forest manager, opted to play Collymore on his own up front, stringing five men across midfield, and to begin with the match looked like turning into a stalemate played out strictly between the two penalty areas.

Only one chance of any note had been created - Quinn hitting Crossley's legs after Paul Walsh had zipped through the Forest defence - before Forest took the lead in the 23rd minute. Up till then City had handled the threat from Collymore well, not allowing their greater possession to distract them from the danger he presented. But when Steve Stone, so influential on Forest's right, moved unchallenged to the byline a goal was likely. Collymore converted his cross in his usual emphatic style.

Everything was going so much according to Forest's plan that they were happy to let City come at them. A bit too happy. As Peter Beagrie and Nicky Summerbee began to probe the flanks, and Quinn got in amongst the central defenders, so Forest's uncertain side was exposed. Crossley either dropped almost everything that came his way, or went in for some rather panicky punches.

The equaliser City were threatening came three minutes from half-time. Beagrie's well- flighted cross had Steve Chettle stretching to head clear, but he succeeded only in dropping the ball at the feet of Quinn who gratefully volleyed it in.

City looked in control, but against Forest that can be deceptive. Seven minutes into the second half, a long ball found Collymore bearing down on goal, defenders nowhere near. Andy Dibble started to come, stopped, and before he had time to make any more decisions, Collymore thumped it in.

Three minutes later a corner from Beagrie looked like catching practice for Crossley, but he duly dropped it, and after a brief melee on the Forest goal-line, Quinn forced in to make it 2-2. Finally we got a goal scored entirely on merit, and what a beauty it was too, Quinn chesting down Andy Hill's chip forward and Steve Lomas timing his arrival to perfection to drive the ball into the corner of the net.

With 20 minutes to go, Forest had a problem on their hands. Collymore was finally given some support when Jason Lee was brought on for Scot Gemmill, and for the first time in the match they were acting, not reacting. By the 92nd minute, all hope appeared to have gone, but this chapter still had one more accident in it.

The goal started with a free-kick from Stuart Pearce. A cluster of City players went to head it clear, Quinn laying out his goalkeeper. The ball reached Ian Woan, on as a substitute for Forest, and from the edge of the area he floated it back into the unguarded net.