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Football: Eugen is top of the Bopps; NOTTM FOREST 1 STOKE CITY 0.

EUGEN Bopp struck a secondhalf winner to secure Nottingham Forest a precious victory against nine-man Stoke and boost their fight against relegation.

Acting Forest manager Mick Harford had seen his side struggle to penetrate Stoke's dogged defence prior to Bopp's 68thminute clincher.

The Potters, who have conceded just 19 goals in 27 games following this defeat, typically defended bravely, but their impotency in attack again proved an Achilles heel.

And midfielder Bopp converted Andy Reid's fine cross to secure the points for the hosts before Stoke defenders Clint Hill (second yellow) and Clive Clarke (foul and abusive language) were dismissed in the closing stages.

Stoke had travelled to the City Ground aiming to get their promotion bid back on track following a disappointing goalless home draw with Preston and 1-0 defeat at Ipswich.

The visitors began the brighter of the two sides and barely two minutes had passed before Ade Akinbiyi fired in a fierce effort from the edge of the box which Forest 'keeper Paul Gerrard was forced to tip over.

Stoke continued to press and Michael Duberry's dangerous cross was well cleared by Wes Morgan.

But their struggles were typified in the 21st minute when Clarke delivered a superb free-kick and Akinbiyi contrived to direct his header wide from just six yards. Forest edged their way into the game and the impressive Reid narrowly missed the target with a delightful free-kick, before Gareth Taylor sent a header wide from the Republic of Ireland star's teasing cross.

The tempo increased after the interval and the impressive Shaun Derry drilled in a 35-yard effort which Stoke 'keeper Steve Simonsen held comfortably.

Carl Asaba then tested Gerrard with an 18-yard effort which the keeper was again equal to.

He was tested a minute later by Wayne Thomas's drilled effort, but clear-cut chances remained few and far between.

As the second half wore on, Stoke began to emerge as the game's dominant force but they struggled to find a cutting edge. Reid's delightful cross saw several players attempt to divert the ball goalwards, but it was Bopp who emerged to fire the ball home right-footed to make the all-important breakthrough.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 2, 2005
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