Early goal cheers Forest as Earnshaw justifies recall

Nottingham Forest 1 Sheffield United 0
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Forest, their pursuit of the top two in the Championship threatening to falter after three losses in four matches, kept in touch despite making hard work of beating a Sheffield United side who played for almost the whole of the second half with 10 men after striker Darius Henderson was sent off.

A goal after four minutes by Robert Earnshaw enabled Forest to maintain their formidable home form, allowing manager Billy Davies to enjoy comparison with Brian Clough in that this result extended his winning sequence at the City Ground to eight matches, the best such run by a Forest team since his legendary predecessor's side registered 12 home wins in a row in 1980.

Away from home lately it has been a different story. Forest's defeat at Doncaster last Saturday was their third in a row on the road and Davies fears the energy expended to keep pace with Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion is catching up with his young team. "This was a great result but there have been some tired legs lately and I'm very concerned about that," he said.

Earnshaw's goal, therefore, provided a psychological lift, even if Forest were not able to achieve the fluency they enjoyed before defeat at Derby ended a 19-match unbeaten run last month.

It was a nicely conceived goal. Radoslav Majewski delivered an inswinging corner that was met by Paul Anderson's flick, directing the ball at an awkward height into the six-yard box, where Earnshaw forced it over the line for his 150th goal in league football. Yet Forest could not impose themselves. United, not far off the play-off pace despite having now lost five consecutive away matches, allowed them scant space to develop any passing moves.

Kevin Blackwell's team struggled to carve out chances but, after Anderson had squandered Forest's clearest subsequent opportunity by shooting over the bar, a cross by Nyron Nosworthy surprised goalkeeper Lee Camp, who reacted late to keep it out.

United were reduced in numbers within the first minute of the second half when Henderson was alleged to have used an elbow in an off-the-ball clash with Anderson. Referee Nigel Miller did not see the incident but went with the evidence of his assistant and showed the United forward a straight red card.

The decision left Blackwell perplexed. "Darius feels hard done-by but I cannot get an explanation as to what happened," he said.

Forest struggled to make the advantage tell, however, and were grateful again to Camp for a flying save from Mark Yeates. At the other end, moments before he gave way to Nathan Tyson, Anderson fired wide after Mark Bunn, at stretch to save from Chris Cohen, pushed the ball straight to him.

Tyson's first meaningful action was a well-struck shot from an angle on the left that Bunn did well to tip over the bar but the comfort of a second goal eluded Forest and James Perch's superb tackle to block Stephen Quinn late in stoppage time was as important as Earnshaw's goal.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Camp; Gunter, Morgan, Wilson, Perch; Cohen, McKenna, Majewski (Moussi, 87), Anderson (Tyson, 73); Earnshaw (McGoldrick, 79), Blackstock. Substitutes not used: Chambers, Adebola, Garner, Smith (gk).

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Bunn; Geary (Quinn 39), Bartley, Nosworthy, Kallio; Yeates, Montgomery, Williamson (Evans, 78), Ward; Henderson, Camara (Cresswell, 66). Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Stewart, Little, Fortune.

Referee: N Miller (Durham).