£8m man puts poor Roy­als to the sword

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By John Wragg

AMAN who cost £1m won Not­ting­ham For­est the Euro­pean Cup 38 years ago. Yes­ter­day a man who cost up­wards of £8m played a huge part in keep­ing them from third-tier foot­ball. That’s in­fla­tion for you.

Such have been the de­clin­ing for­tunes of For­est since they were cham­pi­ons of Eng­land and the best in Europe they needed Britt As­som­ba­longa’s goals to help keep them from trips to Fleet­wood, Rochdale and Walsall next sea­son.

The story goes that Brian Clough bought Trevor Fran­cis from Birm­ing­ham City for £999,999 to avoid him car­ry­ing the bur­den of be­ing the first £1m foot­baller.

When Fran­cis’s div­ing header against Malmo from John Rober­ston’s cross won the first of For­est’s two Euro­pean Cups, Clough gave Birm­ing­ham man­ager Jim Smith the ex­tra pound and a smile.

Peter­bor­ough got £5m for sell­ing As­som­ba­longa, ris­ing up to £8m – a mas­sive amount for a Cham­pi­onship club, the most For­est have ever paid,but with im­mense div­i­dends if it keeps them safe af­ter an­other sea­son of tur­moil.

Mark War­bur­ton, their third man­ager this sea­son, was smil­ing. For­est are three points from safety and on this ex­cit­ing form you would think they will sew it up away to QPR , who are in end-of-sea­son freefall, next Satur­day.

“It was fun when it was 3-0,” said War­bur­ton. “Not so much fun at 3-2.”

Reading at last showed some fight and pulled back to within one goal with Yann Ker­mor­gant’s dou­ble. “We’ve got it still in our hands,” said Reading boss Jaap Stam. “There’s a dif­fi­cult game for us against Wi­gan. They are not go­ing to hand it to us, we are go­ing to have to fight for it.

“With For­est, if you give them time they have good play­ers and can make it dif­fi­cult. They’re fight­ing for their lives but we needed to do bet­ter.”

This wasn’t sim­ple, not even when For­est were three-up in 54 min­utes with As­som­ba­longa’s cou­ple and an­other from the im­pres­sive Mustapha Carayol.

Reading’s away form is poor – just ask Nor­wich, who spanked them 7-1 – with their last six de­feats all on the road. So For­est, who have a good record against the Cham­pi­onship’s big teams, took them on.

There were six For­est cor­ners in the first 20 min­utes as they were se­ri­ously testing Reading, find­ing out just how weak they were. When Ben Br­ere­ton sent As­som­ba­longa clear in the 31st minute they found out, As­som­ba­longa pow­er­ing away and beat­ing keeper Ali Al Habsi with his drive.

Two min­utes into the sec­ond half it was 2-0, As­som­ba­longa with a header this time from Ben Os­born’s cross, giv­ing him 12 goals in 19 starts this sea­son.

When Carayol hit his first goal of the sea­son in the 54th minute an­other Nor­wich lash­ing looked on the cards.

“The qual­ity, de­sire and intensity in the first half was very good,” said War­bur­ton.

“The good and bad for us was the third goal. Great to see it go in but we sat back then and in­vited a very good team to come to us.”

Ker­mor­gant got his first with a back­post header from Jor­dan Obita’s cross and then his 74thminute left-foot vol­ley had the City Ground trem­bling.

“Our de­sire to se­cure Cham­pi­onship sta­tus had to be stronger than Reading’s de­sire to get pro­mo­tion. It was,” said War­bur­ton.

PIC­TURE: John Sumpter

PLENTY TO SHOUT ABOUT: Mustapha Carayol en­joys scor­ing for Not­ting­ham For­est in their 3-2 win against Reading

PIC­TURES: John Sumpter

MUST BE GOOD: Britt As­som­ba­longa cel­e­brates his sec­ond

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