Forest sink deeper into the mire

 

A SOGGY evening at the City Ground last night offered little for the comfort of Nottingham Forest, who fell behind to an early header from Craig Short and were only kept in the game thereafter by Everton's profligacy.

The weekend might have fizzed and frothed with incident but last night threatened to be a return of the empties. So far this season neither Forest nor Everton have done a great deal to capture the imagination, attacking sterility being a problem for both sides.

Everton came to the City Ground having played only one match in a month, and that a none too convincing victory over West Ham. Nevertheless they were winning occasionally, unlike Forest, who were still seeking their first league victory since Campbell's hat trick at Coventry on the opening day. Campbell, like Pearce, was still unfit for duty.

Within four minutes Everton were in front as Hinchcliffe's corner, taken on the right and swung in left footed through the familiar parabola, was met by Short with a sharp, downward header past Crossley's left hand.

While the Forest goalkeeper had done well to push wide a shot from Kanchelskis, his judgment in staying on his line appeared to be at fault when the corner came over. As curtains of rain swept the ground, the Forest supporters wondered about their judgment in not deciding to stay at home.

Lee soon had a chance to cheer things up for Forest when Lyttle's long, low centre from the right skidded past the last Everton defender as the striker raced in to meet it. But at the crucial moment Lee fell over, and the City Ground sighed anew.

Everton, outnumbering Forest in midfield and often out flanking them on the right, continued to put their trust in the pace of Kanchelskis and Hinchcliffe's way with corners and free kicks. This time Haaland, rather than Phillips, filled in for Pearce at left back but the England defender's absence was still embarrassingly conspicuous.

Midway through the first half Everton should have increased their lead when a slip by Cooper allowed Branch a free run at goal from the right. Stuart was waiting at the far post for a tap in, but Branch chose to shoot and drove the ball into the side netting.

Everton nearly rued that miss two minutes before the half hour. Short was cautioned for tripping Phillips who then drove the free kick hard and flat towards the far post, where Lee's header was only a fraction off target. Forest needed more such moments to give them the confidence they so obviously lacked.

With Saunders popping up everywhere, Nottingham Forest managed to get some momentum into their movements but still lacked the penetration necessary to disturb Everton's three centrebacks.

Even their better crosses were failing to find friendly heads, a sure sign of a team off form. Southall had some shots to deal without being called upon to make anything that could be described as a save until he tipped a header from Saunders over the bar midway through the second half.