Saunders' tonic

Nottingham Forest 3 Saunders 19, 74, Allen 28 Ipswich Town 0 Attendance: 14,681
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The Independent Online
When It comes to rebuilding shattered morale, every little bit helps. So Forest's passage into the fourth round of the FA Cup could prove as much an incentive to bring the colour back to their cheeks as has their recent Premiership results since Stuart Pearce took over the reins at the City Ground.

This, however, was not as convincing a victory as the scoreline suggests. Despite being two goals down after 27 minutes, Ipswich were determined to be anything but passive lambs to the slaughter. Indeed, until Dean Saunders came up with Forest's third goal 15 minutes from time, the visitors knew that they still had hope of saving the match.

And so did Forest, for it was only when they felt the comfort of that three-goal lead that their nerves stopped jangling. Their first goal, in the 17th minute, should have done that, as Saunders' splendid right- foot volley from Kevin Campbell's knockdown was a classy affair. The second, 10 minutes later, was anything but that.

Player-manager Pearce surged to the by-line to hammer a fierce cross into the Ipswich goalmouth. A defender's interception killed its pace but deflected it into the path of Chris Allen. Even he could not miss the simple tap-in, his only worthwhile contribution in an afternoon of personal ineptitude mercifully shortened when Bryan Roy replaced him 10 minutes from time.

That this still was far from being a lost cause was underlined by the energy Ipswich put into the start of the second half. Mark Crossley will consider himself fortunate to have been able to recover sufficiently to claw Gus Uhlenbeek's cross-shot out from under his bar, Geraint Williams - a powerhouse for Ipswich as ever - blazed a shot wide and Mick Stockwell dummied past Pearce to make the space for a strong volley which Crossley blocked. The goal Ipswich desperately needed would not come.

Fifteen minutes from time Des Lyttle's through ball was nudged on beyond the covering Adam Tanner to the on-rushing Saunders, who strode on confidently to beat Richard Wright in the Ipswich goal. That could have been the Saunders hat-trick for five minutes earlier the Welsh international had done everything, including going around the stranded goalkeeper, before hitting his shot into the side net.

The hat-trick was still there for the taking in the dying minutes but this time Saunders' drive flew high over Wright's crossbar.