Forest out of luck as John twice hits the woodwork

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Fulham moved up a place to sixth in the First Division but only after surviving a determined effort by Forest to halt their slide towards the bottom. David Platt's team, who have plunged to 21st in the table after winning only once in two months, will feel they deserved better than a point after the Trinidadian striker Stern John twice hit the woodwork in a sustained second-half assault.

Fulham moved up a place to sixth in the First Division but only after surviving a determined effort by Forest to halt their slide towards the bottom. David Platt's team, who have plunged to 21st in the table after winning only once in two months, will feel they deserved better than a point after the Trinidadian striker Stern John twice hit the woodwork in a sustained second-half assault.

Forest did not present themselves as a team in trouble, even though Crewe Alexandra's win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday meant that only goal difference was keeping them out of the bottom three. Fulham, conquerors of Tottenham Hotspur in the Worthington Cup, have shaped as if their prospects of promotion are as realistic as any, yet found their defence as active as their attack.

Jim Brennan, the wing-back Platt bought from Bristol City, produced some threatening runs along the left flank, as did young Andy Gray on the other side. After Maik Taylor had saved awkwardly from Dougie Freedman on the near post, Gray's corner led to a sharp volley from Riccardo Scimeca that missed only narrowly.

Gray, who came to Forest after George Graham froze him out at Leeds, has been a player short of confidence until recently but injuries have created a chance for him in Platt's side. Forest should have gone ahead on 33 minutes after another of his positive surges. Stern John controlled his cross and set up his strike partner Freedman but the opportunity was wasted.

Not until the closing minutes of the first half did Fulham do better than mount sporadic attacks. Scimeca's defensive header almost handed a gift to Geoff Horsfield and then the defender Kit Symons, perhaps surprised not to be ruled offside when Steve Finnan chipped a ball over the top, shot tamely at Dave Beasant.

Forest's enthusiasm was undimmed, however, and there was encouragement for a recently sceptical crowd when the midfielder David Prutton, one of a crop of youngsters to whom Platt has been forced to turn, ran at Fulham from inside his own half and dipped a shoulder to leave Andy Melville floundering. Only the finish - a shot straight at Taylor - let him down.

Symons missed a chance when, unmarked, he turned Steve Hayward's free-kick wide, but Forest again responded positively. Freedman, cutting in from the right, found John, whose shot struck the foot of Taylor's left-hand post.

Forest's struggle to keep out of trouble has led to much speculation over Platt's future. An endorsement from the club chairman, Eric Barnes, is still fresh on the pages of the local evening newspaper, but nerves in the boardroom will be tested if relegation continues to be an issue in the new year.

For the moment, Platt's players cannot be faulted for commitment, as last night demonstrated. Luck seemed in short supply, however. With 13 minutes left, the substitute Marlon Harewood dug out a pass from a tricky spot on the left and John again hit the woodwork, the ball this time rebounding to safety from the underside of the bar.

Nottingham Forest (3-5-2): Beasant; Scimeca, Hjelde, Dawson; Gray, Prutton, Bart-Williams, Quashie, Brennan; Freedman (Harewood, 71), John. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Merino, Allou, Foy.

Fulham (5-3-2): Taylor; Finnan (Hayles, 54), Symons, Melville, Coleman (Morgan, 78), Brevett; Davis, Clark, Hayward; Horsfield, Peschisolido. Substitutes not used: Hahnemann (gk), Collins, Trollope.

Referee: D Laws (Whitley Bay).

Comments