Hor­nets hit last-minute win­ner

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP FOURTH ROUND -

POOR Kelvin Wil­son. Eighty­nine min­utes of ex­cel­lence. One se­cond of mad­ness. And just like that, For­est’s Cup dreams lay in tat­ters.

Quite what the cen­tre-back was at­tempt­ing when Al­lan Nyom’s mishit cross fizzed into the near post is any­one’s guess.

What­ever the in­tent, the out­come was a wafty pass-come-clear­ance straight to the feet of Odion Ighalo, who was never go­ing to miss from six yards.

It was an hor­ren­dous er­ror, one that left Wil­son slumped in de­spair, and all the more gut-wrench­ing in the con­text of a doughty For­est dis­play that had left their Premier League op­po­nents bang out of ideas.

But Reds boss Dougie Freed­man re­fused to blame his cen­tre-half, pre­fer­ring in­stead to fo­cus on the skill of Ighalo and the profli­gacy of his own side, with Jamie Ward and Dex­ter Black­stock both miss­ing golden op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“It was a cruel blow and I don’t think they de­served it,” he said.

“But foot­ball is about what you do in both boxes.We had enough chances to win the game and un­for­tu­nately we haven’t taken them.We gave them half a chance and they did.

“I thought Kelvin was fan­tas­tic. I’ve got no com­plaints about him at all and I wouldn’t even say it was a gen­uine mis­take.

“It’s just come off him and the guy has swiv­elled to put it in the back of the net.

“I’d like to say it was just like me in my play­ing days, but I can’t do that. Ighalo is a top class striker and he’s shown why with that fin­ish.”

De­feat ends a 13-match un­beaten run for For­est, but Freed­man – who cel­e­brates a year in charge this week – says that is no rea­son for stan­dards to slip.

“It’s been a fan­tas­tic run and I’m sure we’ll carry it on in the league,” he added. “We’re play­ing against op­po­si­tion that’s a bit bet­ter but, even then, we gave as good as we got. My team worked very hard. They didn’t let each other down. And if their man­ager is hon­est, he’ll tell you they were quite for­tu­nate to come away with a vic­tory.”

Hav­ing nul­li­fied all and sundry over the past two months, For­est were hardly go­ing to de­vi­ate from the game plan that has served them so well and lined up to sti­fle, frus­trate and hit on the break.

They suc­ceeded too, largely thanks to a su­perb per­for­mance from David Vaughan, whose mid­field bat­tling rat­tled Troy Deeney and broke up count­less at­tacks at source. Chris Co­hen, still inch­ing back af­ter a long lay-off, was equally im­pres­sive, never wast­ing a sin­gle pass. Other than a long-range rocket from debu­tant Nordin Am­ra­bat, the vis­i­tors never tested Dorus De Vries.

As against Mid­dles­brough last week­end, For­est also pos­sessed men­ace on the counter and, just be­fore the break, the press­ing of the fleet-footed Ward forced Nyom into a blun­der.

Through on goal with only Cos­tel Pan­til­imon to beat, the winger some­how man­aged to scoop wide. Un­abashed, For­est at­tacked with vigour in the se­cond half.

“We gave them too much re­spect and I just told them to get in their faces and make it a proper cup tie,” said Freed­man.

Yet if ad­ven­ture was abun­dant, chances were scarce and it wasn’t un­til the 88th minute that For­est had their mo­ment.

Co­hen, on an­other foray down the left, whipped a beau­ti­ful ball across the six-yard box, beg­ging for any kind of touch to steer it home. But Black­stock’s half-hearted glance trick­led wide and, a minute later, su­per sub Ighalo pounced to send the 4,000 trav­el­ling fans wild.

Hor­nets boss Quique Sanchez Flores – who made seven changes – was de­lighted to avoid a re­play but dis­agreed with Freed­man’s as­ser­tion that his side had been for­tu­nate.

“Lucky?” No I don’t think so,” said the Spa­niard.“We had con­trol of the ball, we won the se­cond balls, we cre­ated at­tempts on goal. We con­trolled their best play­ers. Of course to score in the last minute is al­ways a lit­tle bit lucky but I al­ways felt we were in charge of the game.”

BOX OF­FICE: Odion Ighalo cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing Wat­ford’s win­ner

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

SUCKER PUNCH: For­est keeper Dorus De Vries can’t keep out Odion Ighalo’s 89th-minute strike

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