Happy tidings for Platt as Harewood springs the trap

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The Independent Football

A disputed late goal from the 20-year-old Marlon Harewood maintained Nottingham Forest's attempts to revive their ailing season as Birmingham saw their promotion ambitions suffer another setback.

A disputed late goal from the 20-year-old Marlon Harewood maintained Nottingham Forest's attempts to revive their ailing season as Birmingham saw their promotion ambitions suffer another setback.

Trevor Francis has seen his injury-hit squad slip off the pace in the First Division and yesterday's defeat leaves Birmingham without a win in five matches. Francis complained that Harewood's strike had been offside, to which the Forest manager, David Platt, replied: "I did not think so but if it was it is about time a decision went my way."

Platt was still fuming over a penalty that cost Forest a point at Blackburn on Boxing Day, a decision that appeared to have played on his team's collective mind until Harewood's enthusiasm stirred them into life in the second half. Until then, the malaise that had seen them slip close to the bottom three looked to be near the surface still.

Now, after two months in freefall, 10 points from five home matches have given Platt some hope that Forest's fortunes are picking up, although the table shows them still in a precarious position. The late withdrawal of the flu victim Riccardo Scimeca, the team captain, forced Platt to rely on the inexperienced Chris Doig and Kevin Dawson in his back three, although his problems hardly compare with the saga of woe that has been furrowing the brow of his Birmingham counterpart since September, costing Francis up to seven key players at different times. To field two genuine strikers in Marcelo and Dele Adebola yesterday was a rare luxury.

In the circumstances, it was hardly surprising that the contest took some time to warm up. But after a tepid first period, the second half brought a welcome contrast, Forest generating more urgency in the opening 15 minutes or so than during the entire first period.

Harewood, who should have put his side ahead on 48 minutes when Andy Johnson's pass pierced the visitors' back four, quickly followed up with two more strikes. Between those, a header by Stern John missed narrowly and Johnson rounded off a good move by testing Kevin Poole. Then David Prutton, despite a difficult angle, provided an inviting cross from which John missed the best chance of the match.

Birmingham owed a debt to their central defenders Gary Rowett and Michael Johnson for protecting their lines well but their cause was not helped when Graham Hyde and Simon Charlton, both suffering with a virus, had to be replaced.

Forest continued to probe and gained their reward 10 minutes from time when Harewood at last sprang Birmingham's offside trap. Chasing Johnson's long ball, the youngster held his nerve to rifle the ball past Poole from just inside the box.

The closing moments were nervous ones for the home bench with Dave Beasant forced to save at full stretch from Chris Holland and Adebola failing capitalise on a free header.

Goal: Harewood (80) 1-0.

Nottingham Forest (3-5-2): Beasant; Dawson, Hjelde, Doig; Gray, Prutton, Bart-Williams, A Johnson, Brennan; John, Harewood. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Cooper, Freedman, Quashie, Williams.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Poole; Bass, Rowett, M Johnson, Charlton (Gill, 61); Hughes, Hyde (Holland, h-t), O'Connor, Grainger; Marcelo, Adebola. Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Purse, Holdsworth.

Referee: W Jordan (Tring).

Bookings: Nottingham Forest: John. Birmingham: Hyde.

Man of the match: Harewood.

Attendance: 20,821.

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