Football: Wright's class helps Forest gel

Nottingham Forest 4 Walsall 1

IAN WRIGHT gave a polished performance as Nottingham Forest secured their first win in five matches on Saturday to signal that they might be promotion candidates after all. Wright's manager David Platt, however, maintained that he will be content to let his striker return to West Ham at the end of his one-month loan spell.

"I haven't spoken to [West Ham's manager] Harry Redknapp about the situation," Platt said when asked if he would be trying to sign Wright permanently. "But I'll be happy to let him go back. They can't have him before the month's up, that's the rules, but after that, he'll be going back."

Whether Wright does return to Upton Park remains to be seen. He has already suggested that he would rather play regular first-team football under his former Arsenal team-mate than be an occasionally-used squad player under Redknapp. And Platt, even while displaying nonchalance about his departure, still managed to wax lyrical about how important a player like Wright can be.

"Ian is always going to get efforts on goal," Platt said. "No matter how a game is going, he's always going to get chances. And he and Dougie Freedman have already developed an understanding in a couple of weeks." Freedman scored two on Saturday and, although both were largely due to the tireless and creative build-up work of Gianluca Petrachi, it was Wright's experience and influence on the side that was more telling overall.

At times the 35 year old looked to be fitter, faster and more aware than anyone else on the pitch. With his yard of extra pace and his instinctive sense of positioning, he gave the impression of being an older brother who had gate-crashed a younger sibling's kick-about. He scored only the once, but would have had four before finally finding the net but for an inch here or a crossbar there.

If Forest are to continue producing performances such as Saturday's (the first half was entirely forgettable, the second promised to be superlative even before Walsall had their goalkeeper James Walker sent off), perhaps they should step up their efforts to keep Wright. Freedman is a talent, Nigel Quashie in midfield can be influential and Petrachi is a fine buy, but something has been needed to make them gel, and that something may not be around much longer.

Walsall, for their part, started brightly but failed to make a single real chance after taking an early lead. Their manager, Ray Graydon, will be hoping that does not become a regular occurance this season. "I've been expecting a game like this," Graydon said, when asked how Walsall were handling the step up from the Second Division. "We weren't anywhere near them."

Goals: Robins (4) 0-1; Freedman (43) 1-1; Chettle, pen (71) 2-1; Freedman (76) 3-1; Wright (86) 4-1.

Nottingham Forest (4-3-1-2): Beasant; Matrecano, Scimeca, Chettle, Rogers; Louis-Jean, Burns (Platt, 85), Quashie; Petrachi; Freedman, Wright. Substitutes not used: Goodlad (gk), Hjelde, Harewood, Allou.

Walsall (4-4-2): Walker; Marsh, Barras, Viveash, Pointon; Wrack, Bukran, Keates, Brissett (Daley, 74); Robins (Emberson, gk, 69), Rammell (Elyjolffson, 50). Substitutes not used: Kelster, Roper.

Referee: K M Lynch.

Sending off: Walsall: Walker.

Booking: Walsall: Barras.

Man of the match: Petrachi.

Attendance: 15,081.

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