FOOTBALL is a simple game. Take your chances and don't give the other team soft goals and you have a chance of winning the game.

Sadly, Burnley have found out time and time again this season that the opposite invariably means you will end up with nothing, no matter how much effort you put in.

The Clarets had two great chances to open the scoring in the first half and they missed them both.

Then, with the game drifting towards a goalless draw, Greek keeper Nik Michopoulos gifted Forest's talented young centre half Michael Dawson the first goal.

"We were comfortable and I think that Forest were feeling it a little, they needed to get a goal," said Stan Ternent. "They didn't look like getting one and then young Dawson hit one from long range and Nik let it in, but you can't legislate for a mistake like that.

"Nik has done smashing for us but it was a lapse in concentration. Make a mistake and that changes the course of the match."

The problem for Michopoulos is it was similar to the error that gifted Norwich a goal nine days earlier. Yesterday, Dawson's shot was from at least 30 yards. It was not badly hit but if he had been wearing a cap to keep out the Bank Holiday sun, he could have put it on the ball.

Instead it squirmed out of his grasp and crept inside his right hand post to the immense relief and delight of the home fans.

No wonder Forest boss Paul Hart was happy to offer his support to the man who allowed his side to end the day with virtually two feet in the play-offs.

"There was some sympathy for the keeper, I saw how the ball swung from Dawson's shot," he said. "There is always someone who benefits from someone else's misfortune."

The other unlucky Clarets were young midfielder Richard Chaplow and former Forest striker Ian Moore, who were both within inches of giving Burnley the lead.

Chaplow was first to go close and although he shot wide, his manager was delighted with how he fashioned the chance for himself as he turned inside the box after getting a ball from Arthur Gnohere with his back to goal.

"He did extremely well because it was top class skill," purred Stan Ternent. "Virtually all the crowd went one way, he went the other but then he missed his shot by a couple of inches."

That was in the unlucky 13th minute, and eight minutes later they missed an even better chance. Gareth Taylor rose to challenge keeper Darren Ward for the ball, referee Tony Bates rightly saw nothing wrong with the clash and the loose ball broke to Moore.

He only had to head the ball towards the empty goal but, under pressure from a defender, he got too much on it, the ball hit the bar and bounced behind.

Burnley had a third chance before the break when a long throw by Matty O'Neill was headed on by Steve Davis and Taylor's shot was well held by Darren Ward.

O'Neill was the third sub to come on the field in the first half as both side had to make adjustments after losing men to injury.

Ternent had to juggle his pack with Drissa Diallo pulling up with a recurrence of the hamstring injury that had kept him out of four games before his return on Saturday.

Next to hobble off was Greek striker Dimitri Papadopoulos, again with an old injury as he hurt the hip that saw him taken off in the early stages at Portsmouth.

The changes disrupted the flow of the game with Gordon Armstrong coming on for Diallo and slotting in at left back with Graham Branch and Arthur Gnohere becoming the umpteenth central defensive partnership of the season for the Clarets.

The pair did well against the potent strike force of Marlon Harewood and David Johnson.

But while the home side had plenty of possession and chances, they never forced a serious save from Michopoulos.

After the break the pressure from the home side grew and the Clarets could not get forward as well as they had in the opening period. Gnohere made good challenges on both Johnson and Harewood, and Branch made the tackle of the match to halt the former Burnley striker as he broke into the box.

It was the type of tackle that so often leads to a penalty but he timed it to perfection, partly because he has the pace to cope with the likes of Johnson.

Both Chaplow and O'Neill, who again impressed, had shots blocked at the other end before Michopoulos dropped his clanger to leave the rest of his side deflated.

Within seconds, sub Jack Lester should have made it 2-0 but in a one on one with the keeper he somehow scooped the ball wide.

History shows that if Burnley go behind they struggle and they got no closer than a thrusting Moore run into the box with two minutes to go.

It was hardly a surprise when Forest broke to score a second, Michopoulos's goal kick being headed over the top by Johnson and the striker finishing in the manner that made him such a favourite at Turf Moor last season.

Exactly a year ago yesterday, Johnson was as sick as a Claret having missed out on the play-offs by one goal. He will be involved this time around but that is no consolation to Burnley's manager, players and fans.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST 2 (Dawson 75, Johnson 90)


Attendance: 25,403

At the City Ground