Football: Wright's issue for Forest

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The Independent Online
Forest arrived at White Hart Lane yesterday under new ownership, new management and, supposedly, with pounds 16m in the pot, which will not necessarily keep them out of relegation hot water. Curiously, though, it was someone who will play no further part in the future campaign who ensured that the new regime saw an against-the-run single goal not only raise their hopes but force Tottenham to face the growing possibility of relegation themselves.

Tommy Wright, playing his first game for Forest for three and a half years and due this week to sign for Manchester City, where he has been on loan, played a memorable part in a match that will be quickly forgotten but could have turned the tide for Forest and strongly against Spurs.

The irony of the occasion was that, as a result of last week's takeover, Forest now have the former Tottenham chairman Irving Scholar as their football consultant, although he chose not to attend yesterday. It was while under his direction that Spurs once turned down the chance to sign Stuart Pearce. Scholar is now going to depend as much on Pearce's famous inspiration as Dave Bassett's nous as new general manager.

The depth of Forest's difficulties seemed to be revealed within 10 minutes, requiring Pearce to stand firm in the goal area to combat several bullish attacks from Teddy Sheringham, and Wright to get his feet in the way of a close-range shot from Steffen Iversen after David Howells had set up some of Tottenham's most promising attacks of recent weeks. But the situation suddenly went into reverse.

Iversen had just appeared to confirm Tottenham's control, only to have his prodded goal disallowed, when Pearce launched a free-kick accurately to Steve Chettle, who released Dean Saunders just inside the Spurs penalty area. A couple of paces and Saunders unleashed a fine drive beyond Ian Walker and inside the far post.

Lacking the injured Darren Anderton's invention, Spurs had to make amends more with might than magic, which is the way of things at White Hart Lane these days. It all degenerated into a relegation struggle that only one of these teams should have had in mind. Wright, standing in for Mark Crossley, remained a match for anything Spurs could offer, although that amounted to only one serious shot in a poor 30-minute period of the first half when he ably blocked a near-post strike from Clive Wilson.

Wright's concentration and agility again preserved Forest's lead shortly after half-time. He should never have been required to prove the point, but Chettle had totally missed intercepting Sheringham's run some 50 yards out. The Spurs striker attempted a shot that was blocked, but when Allan Nielsen tried another it seemed to be dipping under the crossbar when Wright leapt to turn the ball over. He embellished that outstanding save by effectively blocking Iversen after Sheringham had created a huge fissure in the Forest defence.

With Wright in such form, Spurs could ill afford to lose one of their few creative players. An awkward fall when challenged by Alf Inge Haaland left Andy Sinton with an ankle injury which ended his game.

Although Tottenham's intense use of high, speculative balls towards Sheringham created the impression of domination, they were permanently in danger of seeing Saunders succeed with a quick breakaway or Nigel Clough eventually turn the space he kept finding into something positive. Much the same could be said of Sheringham.

Tottenham's frustration was loudly shared by their impatient fans who were unforgiving in their criticism of the team and particularly the substitute Jason Dozzell who, with 10 minutes left, flagrantly skied the best chance of the day. The cost of such errors gathers significance.

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