Massey makes Forest think again

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The Independent Online
JON CULLEY

Nottingham Forest 1 Oxford United 1

Having spent an hour peppering the Oxford goal with shots, Forest paid for making only one of them count at the City Ground when an equaliser two minutes from the end snatched a second chance for the Second Division side at the Manor Ground next Tuesday. A home tie with Tottenham awaits the winners.

Not for the first time in this season's competition, Oxford's celebrations centred on Stuart Massey, whose spectacular goal had seen off First Division Millwall in a third-round replay. This time, the former Sutton United midfielder forced home Joey Beauchamp's inswinging right-wing corner, flicked on at the near post by skipper Matt Elliott. Massey, 31, signed on a free transfer from Crystal Palace, had not scored a senior goal before this season but has managed one in every round of Oxford's Cup campaign.

Oxford have not travelled well this season and they were not especially adventurous against a side unbeaten at home in more than a year. Denis Smith's tactics, especially in the first half, were clearly designed to facilitate rapid retreat, with leading scorer Paul Moody often left to cut a lonely figure.

This invited Forest to take a grip on the game, and Oxford's goalkeeper, Phil Whitehead, was required to pass test after test. Forest tried to break the deadlock with shots from a range of distances and angles.

An early angled drive from Andrea Silenzi, which Whitehead palmed into the air, set the mood and until 15 minutes into the second half it was hard to spot evidence of how Oxford had managed to progress this far. There was much more evidence of Whitehead's resilience under fire. Having been beaten by one ferocious first-time shot by Chris Bart-Williams which cannoned back off the foot of a post, Whitehead produced two outstanding saves within a minute. First, off balance, he pushed a swinging half-volley by David Phillips over the crossbar and then similarly dealt with an equally testing effort by Ian Woan.

At this stage it seemed inevitable that Forest would get their noses in front before half-time but a good opportunity was wasted when the ball ran loose invitingly for Kevin Campbell from Elliott's tackle on Silenzi, only for the former Arsenal striker to blaze high.

The effect of this on Oxford was to raise their ambitions, but they paid a price for it after 53 minutes as Forest, masters of the counter-attack, went ahead. Roy, leading a break from defence, released the ball into the path of Campbell just crossing the half-way line. He benefited greatly when the two defenders closest to him collided, leaving him in the clear, but he kept his nerve and coolly found the bottom corner. Moments later, Silenzi should have given Forest the cushion of the second goal but hit the woodwork from close range.

Oxford now redoubled their efforts but Forest were guilty of taking their foot off the pedal. They should have lost their lead with 16 minutes left when Elliott squandered a gift. This should have set alarm bells ringing but they were not heeded.

Nottingham Forest (4-3-3): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Phillips; Gemmill, Bart-Williams, Woan; Silenzi, Campbell, Roy. Substitutes not used: Howe, Blatherwick, Fettis (gk).

Oxford United: (4-5-1): Whitehead; Robinson, Elliott, Wood, M Ford; Beauchamp, Smith, Massey, R Ford, Allen (Murphy, 75); Moody. Substitutes not used: Druce, Aldridge.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).

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