Team spirit sets Forest alight

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The Independent Online

Sheffield Wednesday 1

Nottingham Forest 7

Man-management is the mystery element in running a successful football team. Some have the gift, many do not - and among those who do, there are few who could even begin to explain why their way works. Frank Clark, the Nottingham Forest manager, would certainly appreciate some constructive analysis.

A month ago, with his team threatening to vanish down a side alley of mediocrity, Clark singled out his two most prized assets, Stan Collymore and Bryan Roy, and made it clear that their contribution to the cause was less than satisfactory.

It could have been the end of two beautiful friendships. Instead, the effect has been startling, not least on those teams vying to qualify for the Uefa Cup. On the evidence of Saturday's breathtaking performance - a record Premiership away win and Wednesday's heaviest home League defeat - Forest appear to have discovered irresistible form at precisely the right time. Whatever Clark said, it worked.

There has been some fall-out. Roy, his pride hurt, apologised profusely, vowed to knuckle down, and has scored two goals in each of his last three games, having previously gone three months without even one.

Collymore's reaction was somewhat less contrite, blaming manager, team- mates, unhelpful tactics - anything but himself. He withdrew from his contract negotiations, and the ensuing frostiness was not helped by the revelation last week that Clark, having owned up to turning down a £5m pre-deadline bid from Everton, had omitted to mention a £6m offer from Aston Villa.

"Money is not a problem," Clark said. "We'll be able to offer Stan a good enough contract. If he is adamant he wants to be at a supposedly bigger club, I'll find it difficult to keep him."

Forest's passing and movement took Wednesday apart with extraordinary ease, and with Stuart Pearce, Ian Woan and Lars Bohinen matching their front men for quality finishing, the performance drew praise from Trevor Francis, the Wednesday manager. He put Collymore and Roy on a par with Sutton and Shearer, rating the display as "the best team performance I have seen, as a manager, from anyone".

"This is the strongest team I can put out, " Clark said, "and in that kind of form we are capable of destroying the opposition. What I don't know yet is whether we can sustain it over a full season."

Sustaining it until the climax of this one will be a start, and Forest's run-in contains no hurdle which, on this form, they would not clear with ease.

Goals: Pearce (17) 0-1; Woan (20) 0-2; Roy (48) 0-3; Bright pen (52) 1-3; Roy (64) 1-4; Collymore (78) 1-5; Collymore (80) 1-6; Bohinen (86) 1-7.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Petrescu, A Pearce, Walker, Nolan; Bart-Williams, Sheridan (Whittingham, 76), Hyde, Sinton; Waddle, Bright. Substitutes not used: Watts, Woods (gk).

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, S Pearce; Stone, Phillips, Bohinen, Woan (McGregor, 78); Roy, Collymore. Substitutes not used: Lee, Mercer (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).