West Ham soak up Forest surge

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest 1

Pearce pen 35

West Ham United 1

Allen, 14

Attendance: 26,645

With an initial hint of their traditional flair and a belated air of understandable panic West Ham United secured their first point of the season at the City Ground yesterday. While Nottingham Forest might have taken all three with a flurry of activity in the final 15 minutes it would have been more than their earlier stifled efforts had merited.

West Ham may have been without points, but there was abundant point to their approach. Two successive defeats appeared to have done little to affect the crisp quality of their play and to each move that Forest mounted they had an immediate reply.

No sooner, for instance, had Bryan Roy eased the ball through for Steve Stone only to find him marginally offside than Martin Allen passed back for John Moncur to have a shot from the edge of the area at the other end.

Moncur typified the Londoners' habitually busy midfield but it was the introduction of the debutant Robbie Slater which embellished their forward threat. Slater was unafraid to run directly at the defence down the left flank and, almost equally important, scurried back to make himself available for the ball when necessary. It was a cross from the Australian international that first suggested that Forest, for all their early season frolics, might be susceptible. The Forest goalkeeper, Mark Crossley, came for the ball but could only parry it away in something of a panic.

Four minutes later West Ham took the lead, this time a cross from Julian Dicks persuading Crossley that it was safer to stay on his line. A firm downward header by Martin Allen into the bottom left-hand corner gave him no chance to test the wisdom of that.

Frank Clark, the Forest manager, must have been wondering if he had been correct to stick with the squad of 14 that had given him an unbeaten opening to the season, thus leaving his pounds 1.8m Italian signing, Andrea Silenzi, confined to the training ground, and, presumably, brushing up his English.

Clark's mood can only have worsened when Roy was booked in the 27th minute. The Dutchman was challenged harshly on the edge of the area, and when this went unpunished he chased after the referee to unload his feelings. Mr Ashby's retort was the production of the yellow card.

He balanced this nine minutes before half-time, however, when Roy, claiming to be held near the six-yard box, earned a penalty. Stuart Pearce obliged with a characteristic thunderbolt from the spot.

Not that this tempered West Ham's mood one jot. Within three minutes of the resumption Moncur had a speculative shot from 30 yards and then Ian Bishop had a volley stopped from close in. When Tony Cottee had West Ham's second opportunity of the match to score with only the goalkeeper to beat and failed once more - Slater had been culpable earlier - it allowed Forest to flow more freely.

Forest, sensing that the veneer of calm might be chipped away, had several chances in the last quarter of the match. Roy struck the goalkeeper with a sharp strike from wide on the right and Jason Lee, bizarrely substituted for the Dutchman, had his first kick cleared off the line. A header from the other substitute, Scott Gemmill, looped over the bar and Pearce blasted over in the dying seconds.

Comments