Football / FA Cup: Forest dissect dismal Boro

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The Independent Online
Middlesbrough. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Nottingham Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

FOREST would not be the first team to win the FA Cup while worrying about relegation. In a beautifully paced performance, so precise as to be clinical, their accurate football ripped apart a Middlesbrough team who had speed, strength and effort, but little else.

Even when Boro did threaten Forest's anxious defence, which was often, their finishing was either glaringly predictable or wildly inaccurate: to put it kindly, they were outclassed. Lennie Lawrence, the Middlesbrough manager, said of his defence: 'That back four will never play again as a unit together. We gave a defensive display of breathtaking naivety.'

Boro had not defeated a team managed by native son Brian Clough for 26 years, a fact hammered home by the local media in the run-up to this fourth-round replay, but they burst forward with the confidence of a team that did the trick every other week.

Neither Forest's ingenuity nor Boro's pace provided a genuine opening until the 19th minute, when a free-kick enabled Willie Falconer to head into Mark Crossley's arms.

Forest's first goal followed immediately. Roy Keane's shot was blocked, Stephen Pears came off his line to intercept, but Gary Bannister, sniffing around the blind side, won possession to shoot into an empty net.

When Falconer again found a gap, running on to John Hendrie's cross, he had a chance to equalise from 10 yards out, but Crossley stretched his long frame and blocked. Again Forest struck back immediately, Scot Gemmill crossing to the near post where, in another mix-up, Nigel Clough scrambled the second goal.

There were only a handful of Forest supporters present in the 20,514 crowd to cheer this classic exhibition of counter-punching. Despite an enormous superiority in decibels Boro seemed to find Forest's defence impenetrable, and not many Premier League teams have been lost in that particular wood.

Frustrations led to bookings for Brian Laws, Carl Tiler and Andy Peake in quick succession, the last- named being replaced - to cheers - by Bernie Slaven for the last 34 minutes.

Falconer fired over on the hour and then Forest responded again, striking their third within minutes. Neil Webb threaded the ball to Ian Woan in his favourite spot, at a narrow angle on the left side of the box, from where he drilled in a third goal almost as easily as pressing a button.

Middlesbrough: Pears; Fleming, Phillips, Morris, Mohan, Falconer, Wright, Pollock (Kavanagh, 70), Wilkinson, Peake (Slaven, 56), Hendrie.

Nottingham Forest: Crossley; Laws, Williams, Chettle, Tiler, Keane, Bannister, Gemmill, Clough, Webb, Woan. Substitutes not used: Crosby, Orlygsson.

Referee: D Allison (Lancaster).

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