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Giveaway Forest felled by Claridge late show; Portsmouth 2 Nottm Forest 1 Portsmouth 2 Nottingham Forest 1.

STEVE Claridge scored deep into injury time to claim three points for Portsmouth to keep alive Tony Pulis' hopes of avoiding relegation to Division Two.

Nottingham Forest had taken the lead in the 80th minute through Andy Johnson, then threw away the chance of victory as they allowed the home side back into the game in a chaotic finale.

There were chances at both ends throughout the game but it needed the introduction of Forest's substitute, Marlon Harewood, to create the first goal.

He burst down the right and beat two tackles using his pace before pulling the ball back for Johnson, who made no mistake in blasting the opener.

Forest, who lost captain, Riccardo Scimeca to a worrying leg injury in the 66th minute, had lived dangerously all afternoon and slack defending made their lead short-lived.

Portsmouth's Danish midfield player, Thomas Thogersen, equalised in the 84th minute with a flicked header at the near post from a cross by Michael Panopoulos as Portsmouth got back into the game.

Cruelly for Forest, time spent treating Scimeca's injury before he was carried off on a stretcher proved to be their undoing and four minutes into injury time Claridge struck a brilliant winner.

The veteran former Birmingham City and Wolves frontman picked up the loose ball after a corner, which was flicked on by Adrian Whitbread, then smashed a shot from 15 yards which Dave Beasant could not keep out.

It was a fitting reward for Portsmouth, who climbed out of the bottom three.

The home side dominated the game in the first half, only to be denied by veteran Beasant, who produced brilliant saves to deny Claridge twice and Lee Bradbury.

Portsmouth substitute Rory Allen was more relieved than most to see Claridge's goal fly in as he made his first appearance for Portsmouth following a seven-month injury lay-off.

The club's pounds 1 million record signing had blazed over the bar from eight yards out when the scores were still level.

Forest manager David Platt was left frustrated after Forest threw away the lead in those disastrous last 10 minutes.

'Even when we scored the goal to go 1-0 up I thought they could get back into the game.

'I knew it would be a difficult game because Portsmouth had to win it. It's just the nature of the defeat which is very disappointing because we gave it away.'

Platt added: 'I will be looking at the video to see what went wrong, but this means it's going to be a very difficult run-in.'

Pompey goal hero Claridge said: 'That could prove to be a defining moment in our season.

'I thought we might have blown it because we didn't take our chances but we kept battling right until the end.'
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Title Annotation:Football
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 12, 2000
Words:460
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