Nottingham Forest made light of their lowly league placing in the First Division as they had much of the better of a goalless draw against Fulham at the City Ground tonight. David Platt’s side were unfortunate not to claim all three points – and striker Stern John was certainly culpable are striking the woodwork twice in a second half that the home side dominated.
On this evidence, the hosts shouldn’t be in any danger of getting relegated come the end of the season, even if they began this fixture only above the dreaded drop zone on goal difference. Fulham appear to have saved their goalscoring for the cup competitions this season. They have won just twice in twelve league fixtures despite dumping holders Tottenham out of the League Cup at the start of December and barely mustered anything as an attacking force. It might be harsh but it appears as if Paul Bracewell is rather learning on the job after his first four months in management.
Platt has thrown some of Forest’s brightest young talents into the fray and has been delighted with how they have responded. Teenager midfielder David Prutton combined tenacity with touches of real quality here, whilst young winger Andy Gray looked lively and, notably, centre back Kevin Wilson delivered an accomplished senior debut – almost completely nullifying the threat of the three forwards Bracewell entrusted with breaking the deadlock, Geoff Horsfield, Paul Peschisolido and second half substitute Barry Hayles.
Forest had much the better of the second half with Riccardo Scimecca shooting fractionally over from a corner midway through the first half before John set up Dougie Freedman for a glorious opportunity that the experienced forward, should have done better than squander. Fulham offered little, with Kit Symons perhaps surprised to find himself furthest forward to latch onto an intelligent ball from Steve Finnan, and shooting with little power straight at the experienced Dave Beasant.
Prutton produced a burst through midfield to get the City Ground to its feet, although ultimately the finish failed to match the intensity of the youngster’s individual run. Symons wasted another good chance when he was left unmarked at a set-play, but it was the home side who had the better chances to secure a late winner. John had already rattled the woodwork when he hit the base of the post after linking up impressively with Freedman again before hitting the underside of the crossbar after being found by Marlon Harewood. It summed up Forest’s luck that the rebound fell into the grateful arms of Taylor rather than a red shirt.
The only pleasing footnote from another chastening night for Fulham’s promotion ambitions was a four hundredth club appearance for legend Simon Morgan, who bolstered the Whites defence on a night when they ultimately had to be very pleased with a clean sheet away from home.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (3-5-2): Beasant; Scimeca, Hjelde, Dawson; Gray, Prutton, Bart-Williams, Quashie, Brennan; Freedman (Harewood 71), John. Subs (not used): Crossley, Merino, Allou, Foy.
FULHAM (5-3-2): Taylor; Finnan (Hayles 54), Symons, Melville, Coleman (Morgan 78), Brevett; Davis, Clark, Hayward; Horsfield, Peschisolido. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, W. Collins, Trollope.
REFEREE: David Laws (Whitley Bay).