Sinclair's flair holds up Forest

Queen's Park Rangers 1 Sinclair 80 Nottingham Forest 1 Lee 46 Attendance: 17,549
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The Independent Online
NOTTINGHAM FOREST continued to be the most underestimated outsiders in the Premiership. By extending their unbeaten run to 24 matches at Loftus Road yesterday they again questioned why anyone should fail to take them seriously, although champions are not usually known for taking their points in singles.

This was another example of Forest's solid, interesting but rarely exhilarating football. Their outside hope for the title seems based partly on their own meticulous teamwork and solidity in midfield and at the back. What they lack, however, is a player of Trevor Sinclair's originality. He more than anyone saved Rangers yesterday.

For some cryptic reason there was a feeling yesterday that this was the place where Forest were going to come unstuck. There was nothing much in Rangers' recent performances to justify the idea, except that by beating York City at home in the Coca-Cola Cup they had shown a hard streak of professionalism that in an earlier round Manchester United had failed to achieve against that club. Before that Rangers had lost four of their five Premiership games on their own ground.

Obviously Ray Wilkins was not pleased, so yesterday decided to select himself, adding to his team's midfield compass. But Rangers main thrust these days comes from Sinclair who had to overcome an early clattering from Stuart Pearce and temporarily moved to the other side of the field where his pace was impressive and less interrupted.

Forest, as always, took everything in their deliberate stride but, heavily outnumbered upfront, created no more or less opportunities than was suggested by their record of drawing more often than they win. Mark Crossley's goalkeeping this season has usually been less bizarre than in the past and as a result he has made Forest difficult to beat. His 22nd-minute fingertip deflection of Andrew Impey's well-placed drive beneath the crossbar emphasised the point.

Forest had set out full of positive thoughts but facing the solid barrier that Rangers put up, their ambition gradually turned to patient, thoughtful but not often decisive building. They needed to catch Rangers off-guard, so a lively attack only a minute into the second half came at a moment when defenders had hardly settled again. Bryan Roy and Ian Woan did the damage on Rangers' right side, leading to Woan's centre and a header from Jason Lee that he seemed to flick off his forehead into the net with power but without effort.

Although Simon Barker soon rattled the Forest crossbar, he could do nothing with the rebound and Forest survived and prospered as Lee's confidence grew and Steve Stone belatedly showed why he had won international recognition, dropping deep from the right wing to do more than his duty as a midfield worker and at the same time troubling Rufus Brevett with his deceptive turn of speed.

The game had badly needed the goal but the goal was not really a reflection of the game, which dwelt in middle-of-the-field with only the occasional breakout of real danger. Rangers generally finished their moves outside Forest's penalty area but when Sinclair continued them there was always hope.

Having benefited from Jurgen Sommer's important save from Roy's powerful shot following a perceptive pass out to the left side, Rangers finally put together their most effective attack. It had taken 75 minutes of broken promises but when the substitute Simon Osborn whipped over a cross deep into the Forest penalty area, Sinclair was there to strike with an impressive diving header that his performance overall totally merited.

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