Wallace's header enough to fell Forest

Bolton Wanderers 1 Nottingham Forest 0
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The Independent Online

Given the respective League positions the outcome was far from unexpected and while Forest, who have not travelled well this term, can take comfort in the fact there was no evident gulf in class, their lack of composure at key moments must be addressed if the real challenge this season ­ to be in the hunt for promotion ­ is to be met.

At the back there was uncertainty bordering on incoherence each time the defence faced a set-piece while, at the other end, the best two opportunities of the night were squandered at point-blank range by their first choice strikers Jack Lester and David Johnson.

Paul Hart, the Forest manager, said that he was pleased with his side's performance, and well he might be. For long periods his side dominated possession against a disjointed Bolton but too often there was no cutting edge and, when chances were eked out, the forwards failed him.

In the opening period and chasing an equaliser, Lester scampered down the right flank and delivered a perfect low cross but Johnson, admittedly under pressure but only two yards from the target, squirted his shot wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen's left-hand post. It was the Finnish goalkeeper's error that led to Lester's injury-time nightmare. He mis-handled a cross which allowed the substitute Marlon Harewood the time to pick out Lester with a firm, low ball from the byline but in the centre of a gaping open goal, just three yards from taking the game to extra time, he contrived to loop his shot over the bar.

Almost 90 minutes earlier Bolton had taken the lead. Bo Hansen floated a free-kick to the far post for Bruno N'Gotty, with more time than any defence should allow, to head across goal for Danny Wallace, the smallest man on the pitch, to launch forwards and head home.

Further clumsy challenges in the opening period followed and both Ian Marshall and N'Gotty were allowed unhindered headers but both missed the target by a yard. "Our defending was poor from set-pieces," admitted Hart, but he was less concerned about his side's inability to take the chances offered. "I'm not losing sleep over it. If we weren't creating chances then I'd be worried, but Jack is getting into the right positions and he'll start putting them in."

A mass of empty seats and a far from full-strength squad suggested what the Bolton public and management think of the lesser cup contest, but Sam Allardyce refuted the insinuation that the Worthington Cup had a low priority. "It's important for us in financial terms and also because it lets players who can't get into the first team because we are doing so well have a competitive 90 minutes. The team that played tonight hadn't played together much, so we were a little disjointed."

Allardyce also added, with a measure of fairness, that the competition had given Rod Wallace the chance to reach match fitness. "He has some way to go but he's certainly found his eye for goal," Allardyce said.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Richardson, N'Gotty, Hendry, Charlton; Diawara (Norris, 81), Southall, Nolan, Hansen; Wallace (Ricketts, 85), Marshall (Holdsworth, 64). Substitutes not used: Whitlow, Nishizawa.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Ward; Louis-Jean, Hjelde, Scimeca, Brennan; Gray (Bopp, 72) Prutton, Bart-Williams, Rogers (Reid, 72); Lester, Johnson (Harewood, 72). Substitutes not used: Edwards, Roche (gk).

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

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