BY STEVE MITCHELL

SECOND-HALF COMEBACK SEES ARSENAL STUN FOREST AT HIGHBURY:

Another weekend of football wiped out by the January weather saw just four First Division matches take place this afternoon. Once again, Highbury’s undersoil heating ensured that the game of the day between Arsenal and Nottingham Forest went ahead as planned, although there were concerns for player safety as the surface remained partly frozen.

Forest frontman Tony Woodcock opted for training shoes more suited to plastic than grass, as the champions looked for their first win away to the Gunners since 1964. Forest’s last two visits to Highbury has seen them ship seven goals, so the omens were not great despite Brian Clough’s side only losing once so far this season, away to Liverpool.

Arsenal paraded their new £450,000 signing Brian Talbot who joined earlier this week from Ipswich Town and the England midfielder went straight into the starting XI at the expense of Steve Gatting.

In the early exchanges however, Talbot was finding life tough against a Forest midfield expertly led by skipper John McGovern and Martin O’Neill. Alan Sunderland had the home side’s best effort in the opening 45 minutes but his header was comfortably saved by Peter Shilton in the Forest goal.

It was no surprise when the visitors took the lead eight minutes from the interval thanks to a shot from Scottish international John Robertson; although replays showed that the ball took a wicked deflection off David Price as it fizzed past goalkeeper Pat Jennings. Credit must also go to referee Alan Robinson who allowed the advantage after Garry Birtles was fouled in the build-up to the goal.

The visitors nearly doubled their advantage soon after thanks to more good work from Robertson on the left who teased the Arsenal defence before putting in a tantalising cross which Birtles almost managed to convert. As it turned out, Forest would be left to rue missed opportunities.

Liam Brady, Arsenal’s most influential player in recent weeks, was having a quiet afternoon by his standards, but the Irishman started to stamp his authority in the second-half. England full-back Viv Anderson went on a brilliant overlapping run for Forest and Birtles was agonisingly close to getting on the end of another superb centre.

That was as good as it got for the visitors as shortly after, Arsenal were level. A quick free-kick saw Brady pick the pocket of Anderson before delivering a deep cross from the left which was nodded down by Frank Stapleton for Price to make amends for his earlier deflection, by stabbing the ball home.

With half an hour to go, the Gunners sensed they could take both points. Talbot was growing in confidence and Stapleton and Sunderland were giving the Forest back-line an uncomfortable afternoon. The hosts should have had their noses in front when a scuffed shot from Graham Rix was hit towards goal by the outstretched leg of Sunderland, but the ball somehow went over Peter Shilton’s crossbar.

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With eight minutes to go, Arsenal’s pressure eventually paid off. Brady, on the right this time, set off on another run and as the Forest defence retreated, he played in Stapleton and the Republic of Ireland striker smashed the ball home past Shilton, who will be disappointed he let the shot go across his body.

Cue delirium in the North Bank as Brian Clough and Peter Taylor looked stunned on the Forest bench. After a tough week for Arsenal, which included another marathon FA Cup encounter with Sheffield Wednesday, boss Terry Neill will be delighted at the way his side came from behind to move four points clear of this afternoon’s opponents.

CITY HELD AT LEEDS ON ALLISON’S RETURN:

Larger than life Malcolm Allison is back at Manchester City as Head-Coach. Having enjoyed success with the club in the late 60’s and early 70’s “Big Mal” has been brought in by City chairman Peter Swales to try to halt the team’s slide despite being one of the pre-season title favourites.

Once again the undersoil heating did its job at Elland Road in an entertaining game which finished 1-1. The hosts went in front in the first-half, when Tony Currie flighted in a beautiful free-kick with the outside of his right foot which was met by the head of John Hawley, who got to the ball in front of City defender Paul Hart.

To their credit however, City battled back and were well worth their point as substitute Brian Kidd, brought on by Allison to play as a centre-half, rifled home a wonderful right-foot shot from a quickly taken free-kick which left Leeds keeper David Harvey clutching at thin air.

Allison is aware of the size of his task at Maine Road, but at least his current crop of players look prepared to fight for their places in the team.

WEEK 25 ROUND-UP:

With Liverpool and Everton both having their matches called off, West Bromwich Albion had the chance to go top as they journeyed to Carrow Road to face Norwich City. They came home with a point after a 1-1 draw, which was good enough to put them at the First Division summit. Striker Cyrille Regis gave the visitors a first-half lead, but veteran midfielder Martin Peters ensured the Canaries got a share of the points with a second-half equaliser.

The only other top-flight game to take place this afternoon was at Ashton Gate as Bristol City entertained Tottenham Hotspur, who had a mighty scare in the FA Cup this week being held at home by Altrincham. The 29,000 who braved the cold went home disappointed however, following a goalless draw.

 

FIRST DIVISION RESULTS – SATURDAY JANUARY 13:

Arsenal 2-1 Nottingham Forest (Price, Stapleton; Robertson)

Bristol City 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur

Leeds United 1-1 Manchester City (Hawley; Kidd)

Norwich City 1-1 W.B.A (Peters; Regis)

 

POSTPONED MATCHES:

Aston Villa v Ipswich Town

Chelsea v Coventry City

Derby County v Bolton Wanderers

Liverpool v Birmingham City

Manchester United v Q.P.R

Middlesbrough v Everton

Wolves v Southampton

League Division One table after close of play on 13 January 1979

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 West Bromwich Albion 22 14 6 2 47 20 27 34
2 Liverpool 21 15 3 3 47 9 38 33
3 Everton 22 12 9 1 32 16 16 33
4 Arsenal 23 12 7 4 41 21 20 31
5 Leeds United 24 9 9 6 45 31 14 27
6 Nottingham Forest 21 8 11 2 22 14 8 27
7 Bristol City 25 9 8 8 30 26 4 26
8 Coventry City 22 9 7 6 29 35 -6 25
9 Tottenham Hotspur 23 8 9 6 25 36 -11 25
10 Manchester United 22 9 6 7 32 39 -7 24
11 Aston Villa 21 7 9 5 26 19 7 23
12 Southampton 21 6 8 7 25 28 -3 20
13 Manchester City 22 5 9 8 28 27 1 19
14 Norwich City 20 4 11 5 31 31 0 19
15 Ipswich Town 22 8 3 11 29 30 -1 19
16 Derby County 22 7 5 10 26 40 -14 19
17 Bolton Wanderers 22 6 5 11 29 41 -12 17
18 Middlesbrough 21 6 4 11 30 31 -1 16
19 Queens Park Rangers 21 4 7 10 18 30 -12 15
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 21 5 2 14 17 40 -23 12
21 Chelsea 22 2 6 14 22 48 -26 10
22 Birmingham City 22 2 4 16 20 39 -19 8

UPCOMING FIXTURES – SATURDAY JANUARY 20:

Birmingham City v Norwich City

Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal

Coventry City v Liverpool

Everton v Aston Villa

Ipswich Town v Wolves

Manchester City v Chelsea

Nottingham Forest v Manchester United

Q.P.R v Middlesbrough

Southampton v Bristol City

Tottenham Hotspur v Leeds United

W.B.A v Derby County

FOLLOW THE WHOLE 1978-79 SEASON IN THE ENGLISH FIRST DIVISION WITH STEVE MITCHELL HERE ON THE FOOTBALL PINK. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @barafundler

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