Nottingham Forest were sent crashing out of the Emirates FA Cup after Odion Ighalo’s late 89th– minute strike ended the home side’s hopes of winning a competition they have not won since 1959.

The hosts came close at the end of the first half when winger Jamie Ward was through on goal, but the Northern Irishman shot wide of the near post, to the disappointment of the Forest fans. With a 10-year old in the Brian Clough Stand heard suggesting that ‘even [he] could have scored that’, the miss was a vital moment in the game, and came back to haunt the Reds later on.

The away side nearly struck in the first 45 minutes after former Forest player Adlene Guedioura shot from 20 yards which was saved by goalkeeper Dorus de Vries, who had kept three clean-sheets prior to the encounter with the impressive Premier League side.

“Nevertheless, the home side continued pushing for their first goal with Chris Cohen setting up striker Dexter Blackstock with a low, curling cross from the right-wing”

After half-time, both sides emerged looking to attack, with Watford’s new £6 million signing Nordin Amrabat coming close to opening proceedings with a shot outside the box, which produced a spectacular save from De Vries.

Forest’s first attempt in the second half came from central midfield Gary Gardner, who’s snap-shot from 25 yards highlighted the home side’s attacking intent.

After 68 minutes, Forest substituted their playmaker Jamie Ward, then on a yellow card after a foul on Chelsea loanee Nathan Ake. The introduction of Ben Osborne was soon to be followed by the 72nd minute release of Odion Ighalo from the bench, replacing his regular strike partner Troy Deeney. Groans could be heard across sections of the Forest faithful, as the Nigeria striker has scored the third most Premier League goals this season with 14 strikes.

Nevertheless, the home side continued pushing for their first goal with Chris Cohen setting up striker Dexter Blackstock with a low, curling cross from the right-wing. The striker was unable to take the chance, instead forcing the shot wide.

The dramatic events would then unfold in the 89th minute as central-defender Kelvin Wilson miskicked the ball when attempting to clear it, allowing Ighalo to pounce on the defender’s mistake and secure Watford’s victory.

“The Forest players were greeted with disappointment and empathy from the fans who will be wondering what could have been had Ward put away his chance in the first-half”

With four minutes of extra time, the home side changed their approach, trying to play long-ball to the attackers who once again failed to create an equaliser. Portuguese substitute Nelson Oliviera went down after a challenge in the area, but was not granted a penalty.

A further opportunity was carved out after Oliviera picked out Ben Osbourne on the edge of the area, who scuffed his shot wide in the dying few minutes.

As the final whistle blew, the Watford side celebrated in jubilation, as the Forest players were greeted with disappointment and empathy from the fans who will be wondering what could have been had Ward put away his chance in the first-half.

The wait for a third FA Cup goes on for the Reds, who will instead look to bounce back from this defeat and revive their focus on securing a play-off spot in the Sky Bet Championship.

Andrey Prikazchikov

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