Forest struggle to make a point

Blackburn Rovers 1 Nottingham Forest 1
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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest resemble someone trying to extricate himself from something unpleasant. No matter what they do - change the management structure, break their transfer record - they seem to stick where they are and it is just possible their struggles are making the situation worse.

They fielded Pierre van Hooijdonk for his first match since his pounds 4.5million transfer from Celtic but the outcome was scarcely an improvement. An away draw should never be despised but you suspect the result will have encouraged only the teams below Forest in the Premiership, who all have three games in hand.

Not that Blackburn will exactly be preening themselves this morning either. After elevating themselves from the gutter under the caretaker management of Tony Parkes, they have stuttered in their last few matches and their own safety target is coming only slowly into sight.

Forest, who went ahead through Alf Inge Haland, will be happier with a point if only because Blackburn had an overwhelming bulk of the possession after the interval. What they did with it was neither edifying nor particularly intelligent, however, and they were possibly reaching the point of believing they would never score when Kevin Gallacher got the equaliser.

"Once we got ahead we started to play survival football," Dave Bassett, Forest's newly appointed general manager said. "And you can't do that for 70 minutes. In the second half it was like the Alamo."

Bassett's new signing, Van Hooijdonk, inevitably, was the centre of attention but his impact, after an early favourable impression, was not huge, although even a rampant Alan Shearer would have had problems with the service that came his way.

"I thought he showed promise," Bassett said. "He's got a good touch but he'll need time to settle. He got tired. He's been through a lot this week."

Van Hooijdonk's presence ensured early Forest dominance which was translated into a goal after 18 minutes. Haland's pass out to the right wing was a little too vigorous for Des Lyttle but the full-back slid in to send the ball towards the six-yard box. Again the pace of the ball was too strong but Haland followed his colleague's example, getting a touch ahead of the Blackburn goalkeeper, Tim Flowers.

The home team had every reason to feel surprised as Forest had managed only one goal in their previous seven matches and it took them until after the interval to mount a concerted and proper riposte.

Initially their tactic of firing aimless high balls into the Forest box had been met by a wall of defensive heads. It was left to Gallacher, an imaginative exception, to display the wit to break this mould and it was fitting that he should get the equaliser. His square ball for Tim Sherwood should have been rewarded with a goal but when the latter's shot rebounded off the bar Gallacher hooked the ball into the net with an overhead kick.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-1-1): Flowers; Kenna, Berg, Hendry, Le Saux; Sherwood, McKinlay, Flitcroft, Wilcox; Gallacher; Pedersen (Warhurst, 85). Substitutes not used: Bohinen, Marker, Duff, Given (gk).

Nottingham Forest (4-3-1-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Haland (Woan, h-t), Gemmill, Phillips; Roy (Clough, 73); Van Hooijdonk, Saunders (McGregor, 90). Substitutes not used: Jerkan, Fettis (gk).

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).

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