Sympathy but no respite for Hart as Forest face striking problem

Nottingham Forest 0 Sheffield United 3
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The Independent Football

Sheffield United advanced their hopes of combining their promotion push with another Cup run by bringing more misery to the City Ground yesterday.

Neil Warnock's irrepressible team, semi-finalists in both domestic knock-out competitions last season, clinched a spot in the fifth round of the FA Cup despite being largely outplayed by Nottingham Forest, whose position at the opposite end of the First Division table would be hard to fathom but for their appalling record in front of goal.

Forest have found the net only three times in 10 games since their top scorer, Marlon Harewood, was sold to West Ham for £500,000 in November and are paying the price for self-imposed financial constraints.

The scoreline flattered the visitors but they succeeded just where Forest are failing. Leading by Jack Lester's penalty after 32 minutes and having created hardly another chance, they added two more goals in the last 12 minutes through Chris Morgan and Wayne Allison.

"It was a close game and if Forest had scored it might have been a different story," Warnock said, before offering rare sympathy for a beaten opponent. "Forest just need a bit of luck but you don't get it when you are in the kind of run they are suffering. Paul [Hart] doesn't have the players to bring in and you feel for him."

For Hart, such thoughts are welcome but worthless. "We are doing everything but put the ball in the net," he said. "We are looking for new players to bring in on loan but it is not easy to find them."

Even putting free headers into an open goal was beyond Forest. Matthieu Louis-Jean was guilty of the first glaring miss, heading Andy Reid's pin-point free-kick embarrassingly wide from six yards. At least he could plead a full-back's limitations; there was no such excuse for Marlon King or Gareth Taylor, who purport to be strikers.

King, with only one goal - a penalty - in 10 games since his £950,000 move from Gillingham, put another inviting Reid cross wide just before half-time and Taylor followed suit a little past the hour-mark.

Louis-Jean had given the visitors the opportunity to go ahead by ending Michael Tonge's run into the box with a trip. The Frenchman had plenty of support in voicing his complaints but the referee, Phil Dowd, saw the incident from five yards and was in no doubt. Lester, who would still be a Forest player had they matched Warnock's contract offer last summer, gave Darren Ward no chance from the spot.

Forest's effort never wilted but they were dealt a decisive blow 12 minutes from time when the central defender Morgan - who was sent off when United suffered a rare League defeat at the City Ground in September - surprised himself as much as anyone by scoring with an overhead kick after Robert Page had headed Tonge's corner across the six-yard box.

There was no way back from that and Allison's 89th-minute header from another Tonge cross merely compounded Forest's agony.

Goals: Lester pen (32) 0-1; Morgan (78) 0-2; Allison (89) 0-3.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Ward; Louis-Jean, Walker, Doig, Robertson; Sonner, Williams, Bopp (Westcarr, 78), Reid; Taylor, King. Substitutes not used: Roche (gk), Jess, Gunnarsson, Gardner.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kenny; Kozluk, Page, Morgan, Wright; Montgomery, Lester (Whitlow, 75), McCall (Rankine, 89), Tonge; Allison, Peschisolido (Forte, 60). Substitutes not used: Sturridge, Armstrong.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Bookings: Nottingham Forest: Williams. Sheffield United: Kozluk, McCall.

Man of the match: Reid.

Attendance: 17, 306.