Hughes looks a spent force as Forest prosper

Manchester City 0 Nottingham Forest 3: Pressure mounts on City manager after another woeful performance lets in Championship paupers
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The Independent Online

Manchester City supporters are in such a lather about who will be coming to Eastlands during the transfer window it is easy to forget what is happening on the pitch. Then again, after this collective amnesia might be preferable.

Already languishing in the Premier League, City, the richest club in the world, crashed ignominiouslyout of the FA Cup when they lost against Nottingham Forest of the Championship, who are 28 rungs below them in the League ladder and on a different planet when it comes to finance. It is going to take a spectacular purchase or two this month to make up for this.

City are reported to be about to spend around £60 million in the transfer window, and the first £11m of it was unveiled yesterday when Wayne Bridge was introduced to his new supporters before the kick-off. He then had to endure 90 minutes wondering whether he had made a colossal mistake, his one consolation being that he must be guaranteed the regular first-team place that eluded him at Chelsea.

Not many other City players will be able to claim that after a display that will not have enhanced Mark Hughes' position. "Sacked in the morning," was the less than compassionate prediction of the Forest supporters and, although they are unlikely to be right, the City managerwill not be able to endure manymore results like this. Four days into 2009 and the only chance City have of gaining silverware this year is the Uefa Cup.

That is unlikely if moneybags City continue to defend like paupers. Hughes says he needs to strengthen his back four, and as all three Forest goals, scored by Nathan Tyson, Rob Earnshaw and Joe Garner, came from errors, you can see why. Expect a very different rearguard at Eastlands by the end of the month.

Before Forest shook the stadium to its foundations the most compelling thing about the tie appeared to be its clash of personality complexes. The nation's psychiatrists are kept busy by people trying to fathom City's results, and Forest arrived a Eastlands with home form so poor it cost manager Colin Calderwood his job but with an unbeaten away record going back to mid-October. The man trying to work that one out is Billy Davies, who sat in the stands yesterday prior to taking over on Monday.

At least Davies did not need to consult the internet to learn about City's team. Stephen Ireland and Robinho (thigh) were missing but, those two apart, this was a bona-fide first team. Until the end of the month, that is. So many City players might be about to be replaced by expensive signings but, rather than attempt to catch the manager's eye through industry, there was a languid air about the home teamthat could have been punished in the opening five minutes, when Lewis McGugan and Matt Thornhill were narrowly wide with free headers from 10 yards out.

This was an inauspicious start that should have warned City and, to give Hughes' side credit, they created pillars of optimism with opportunities for Vincent Kompany and Daniel Sturridge before they collapsed with two goals in four minutes for Forest.

The first stemmed, as so often in recent weeks, from a less than commanding piece of play by Micah Richards. His header from Wes Morgan's 38th-minute cross only just cleared the area and Tyson volleyed into the far corner from 20 yards.

At least Richards made an attempt to avert the danger; Pablo Zabaleta did not even have that excuse four minutes later as he made a hash of clearing from by the corner flag. He was dispossessed by Chris Cohen, who pulled back for Thornhill and, although his shot was going wide, it turned into a perfect pass to Earnshaw, who diverted it into the net.

Now it was a question of whether City's pressure or Forest's chance to break on the counterattack would prove decisive, and it was the latter. With 15 minutes to go the home defence dozed again to allow substitute Garner to turn unchallenged from a wayward throw-in from Dietmar Hamann and score from 10 yards.

"Are you Derby in disguise?" the Forest supporters asked. County should consult their lawyers.

Attendance: 31,869

Referee: Lee Probert

Man of the match: Thornhill

Match rating: 7/10

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