WILSON GIFTS WATFORD A PLACE IN THE FIFTH ROUND
Hornets hit last-minute winner
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
SUCKER PUNCH: Forest keeper Dorus De Vries can’t keep out Odion Ighalo’s 89th-minute strike