Platt profits as John turns saviour

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The Independent Online

David Platt's reunion with the long-serving Crewe manager, Dario Gradi, ended in victory for the apprentice as Stern John's goal won the day for the fledgling Forest coach.

David Platt's reunion with the long-serving Crewe manager, Dario Gradi, ended in victory for the apprentice as Stern John's goal won the day for the fledgling Forest coach.

The Trinidad and Tobago striker John, whose previous goal came six minutes into his debut for the Nottingham side last month, gave Forest the edge in the 75th minute to lift the pressure on Platt, whose team had won only once in 11 matches before yesterday.

Platt concedes he will remain forever in Gradi's debt for relaunching his career after Manchester United had cast him off as a heartbroken teenager. Glancing at his mentor along the touchline yesterday, he may have mused that not all managers have to worry about the sack at the first hint of a crisis. Gradi has been in charge at Gresty Road since 1983.

Platt had drawn encouragement from a promising display against Fulham last week but a crowd that had witnessed only one goal in four matches began to vent their frustration as yesterday's first half turned into another failure by Forest to turn possession to their advantage.

John, who had twice hit the woodwork in the goalless draw with Fulham, did so again in Forest's first meaningful attack, his shot on the turn clipping Jason Kearton's right-hand post after a penetrating run by Andy Gray on the right flank. Within a minute, Kearton had conceded a corner from Dougie Freedman.

John, the 23-year-old Trinidadian who was recommended to Forest by Dwight Yorke, regularly demonstrated with his strength and sharpness in the box why Platt paid £1.5m to import him from Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, Forest seemed able to do everything bar score. The wing-back Jim Brennan wasted probably the best first-half chance, blazing over the bar after John's lay-off had given him time to line up his shot.

This was Gradi's 901st match and, as usual, his team were neat, well organised and enjoyed having the ball at their feet. Kenny Lunt, a 20-year-old who likes to attack from midfield, is Gradi's latest bright spark. His clever ball control created Crewe's only worthwhile first-half chance. Early in the second half, he dropped the ball on to the roof of the net from 40 yards after spotting Dave Beasant off his line.

They have young men who can defend as well, as John discovered when the centre-back Steve Wright kept blunting his progress. It was clear, however, that Gradi's half-time instructions required less defending as his players became more adventurous as Forest's frustrations grew. Colin Cramb, squandering a chance with only Beasant to beat, should have given them a 49th-minute lead; then Lunt, with a straight free-kick from 20 yards, wastefully missed the target.

Platt's answer was to make two substitutions, replacing Nigel Quashie with Andy Johnson and the ineffectual Freedman with the gangling Marlon Harewood. It provided the lift that was needed and John at last made another wave of attacks count when he controlled Brennan's cross and stabbed the ball past Kearton with 16 minutes left.

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