Nottingham Forest 0 Aston Villa 1
Franz Carr re-emerged from obscurity last night to put Aston Villa within 90 minutes of a Wembley double.
Carr scored after 26 minutes of his first game in more than a year with Villa to defeat his old club, Nottingham Forest, in this FA Cup quarter- final. Villa, who are already Wembley-bound in the Coca-Cola Cup, now meet Liverpool or Leeds in the semi-final, their first for 36 years, on 31 March.
Both sides were weakened, their small squads feeling the strain as the season reaches the business end. Forest had Colin Cooper suspended and, with his deputy, Alf-Inge Haaland, injured, Chris Bart-Williams moved into central defence.
Villa were bereft of five first-team players - Andy Townsend, Julian Joachim, Tommy Johnson, Steve Staunton and Gareth Southgate. Thus Carr, who had played only 14 minutes football in 13 months at Villa, was finally given a first-team debut, at the ground on which he made his name.
After waiting so long he was in no mood to waste time and, in the second minute, set up Dwight Yorke after intercepting a wayward pass from Ian Woan. Having pushed Yorke's shot away that time, Mark Crossley was quickly in action again, stooping to gather Yorke's diving header from Carr's cross.
Bryan Roy managed a 13th-minute header into Mark Bosnich's arms, but it was a solitary effort as Villa continued to dominate. Savo Milosevic wasted two chances, Alan Wright shot over, then after 20 minutes, Ugo Ehiogu struck the bar following a corner.
A goal had to come and, on 26 minutes, it did. Carr, who with Yorke was at the centre of Villa's attacks, picked up the ball 25 yards out and, after briefly hesitating, drove it into Crossley's top-left corner.
Though Bosnich beat away a Roy volley, Villa, who were seeking to reach their first semi-final since 1960, maintained a comfortable supremacy. Forest's passing was sloppy, as if the weight of matches was finally catching up with them. There was certainly nothing to worry Bayern Munich's scouts before next week's Uefa Cup semi-final second leg.
Forest, unsurprisingly, began the second half more brightly. They also fielded an unfamiliar 4-3-3 formation, with Paul McGregor (on for Roy) and Woan flanking Kevin Campbell in attack. The trio took a while to gel, but when they did Villa's polished defence showed raw edges. After 59 minutes Alan Wright cleared a Woan shot off the line, then McGregor's cross caused panic in the defence. Within five minutes Woan lobbed the advancing Bosnich, only for Paul McGrath to clear.
With their full-backs withdrawn, to mark Woan and McGregor, Villa were being outnumbered in midfield. But with Bosnich in commanding form they survived Forest's burst of pressure - and a later one when Jason Lee added his height to the assault.
In the dying minutes Crossley also made his presence felt in the Villa area and almost precipitated a penalty when a Stone shot was controversially blocked following the goalkeeper's challenge at a corner.
While Villa now look towards Wembley, Forest are left with only European pastures from which to chase glory.
Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Chettle, Bart-Williams, Pearce; Stone, Gemmill, Phillips, Woan (Lee, 75); Campbell, Roy (McGregor, h-t). Substitute not used: Blatherwick.
Aston Villa (3-4-1-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, McGrath, Scimeca; Charles, Draper, Taylor, Wright; Carr (Davis, 79); Milosevic, Yorke. Substitutes not used: Ferrelly, Oakes (gk).
Referee: M Bodenham (Cornwall).
More reports, results, photograph, page 25