Forest's belated gamble pays off

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The Independent Online


Nottingham Forest 1 Lyon 0

Paul McGregor had never scored at the City Ground before last night; Bobby Howe had not played a first-team match in two seasons. Yet last night this inauspicious pair combined to put Nottingham Forest on the brink of the quarter-finals of the Uefa Cup.

Neither had even been on the pitch with 20 minutes left, then Frank Clark, the Forest manager, boldly brought off his international forwards, Bryan Roy and Andrea Silenzi, and brought the youngsters on.

Forest continued to prod impotently at an efficient Olympique Lyonnais defence until, with seven minutes left, Scot Gemmill crossed hopefully to the edge of the 18-yard box. Pascal Olmeta, Lyon's erratic goalkeeper, unwisely came for the cross and flapped at it. The ball fell to Howe whose shot struck Florent Laville on the arm.

After Sandor Puhl, the World Cup final referee, had sent off the unfortunate Laville, Olmeta appeared to redeem himself by saving Stuart Pearce's uncharacteristically weak penalty. Sadly for the goalkeeper, but not for Forest, the ball fell to McGregor who coolly scored.

The 20-year-old, who has yet to start a game for Forest, had only scored once before, at West Ham last season. Howe, 22, has only had a handful of appearances and has been out of favour at the club since their First Division days.

Howe was only on the bench because Jason Lee and Kevin Campbell were injured. Lee's failure to recover from the thigh injury he sustained on Saturday gave Silenzi his second start of the season. Inevitably, he was not fully match-fit and neither was Roy. Having delayed a cartilage operation to play, Roy goes under the knife today.

Thus it was an enforced gamble that Clark took. "We were running out of steam up front," he said. "They had settled for 0-0 and we had nothing to lose.

"There was no pressure on McGregor and Howe. They are both good prospects but they are unknown and all I said to them was 'go and run around'. They did well. McGregor showed a good instinct. Most of the team just stand there when the skipper takes a penalty as he usually scores."

The incident made for a dramatic couple of minutes. Sadly for the BBC, who were televising the game live, many people would have switched off long before. The game had been tight, with both sides too similar for thrills. They both worked hard, covered each other in defence and broke well. There were plenty of shots, but few from inside the box.

Forest's best effort before the goal was a 19th-minute drive from Pearce which Olmeta tipped wide. The best French effort was a 30-yard shot from Christophe Devaux, which brought the night's best save from Mark Crossley. The cheekiest was a 50-yard lob from Stephane Roche, which brought back memories of Nayim's against Arsenal - except this time the ball went over the bar.

There was little else to be excited about, but that should be no surprise. Away goals have become so crucial in this competition (both Liverpool and Manchester United went out that way) that home teams are reluctant to commit themselves. Clark admitted as much when he said: "The most important thing tonight was to keep a clean sheet."

They succeeded in doing that and, if they can achieve their fourth successive European clean sheet in Lyon, in a fortnight, English football will still have a representative in Europe when the competition restarts in March.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Stone, Gemmill, Bart-Williams, Woan; Silenzi (Howe, 72), B Roy (McGregor, 72).

Lyon (5-3-1-1): Olmeta; Sassus, Devaux, Marcelo, Laville, Moulin; Deplace, E Roy, Roche (Deguerville, 84); Giuly; Maurice.

Referee: S Puhl (Hungary).

n Jurgen Klinsmann scored all four goals in a resounding 4-1 victory for Bayern Munich over Benfica of Portugal in the first leg of their Uefa Cup third-round tie in Munich last night. The 31-year-old former Tottenham Hotspur striker's goals came in the 16th, 27th, 32nd and 46th minutes.

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