The result took City to 51 points and means, barring administration, The Blues Are Saying Up and now some of us can stay to wonder if maybe The Blues Are Going Up as they enter the final third of the season in 4th spot 7 points behind the auto-promotion spots but 5 points and a vastly superior goal difference ahead of the chasing pack outside the zone plus with a game in hand (at home too) over everyone.
With Kevin McNaughton and Joe Ledley amongst others patched up, City started with the same 11 that faced Arsenal and Coventry in CARDIFF CITY: Enckleman; McNaughton-Johnson-Gypes-Kennedy; Burke-Rae-Ledley-Parry; Bothroyd-McCormack. Subs: Heaton-Comminges-Johnson(Eddie)-McPhail-Purse.
City are top of are form leagues, now unbeaten in 13 and have won 5 on the bounce in the league at Ninian Park but Forest, despite their lowly position, presented the sternest of tests. While not a bad side, they couldn't buy a goal and had been in the relegation zone all season long which saw them depart with Colin Calderwood and install Billy Davies at the start of the month to produce immediate dividends with 3 successive Championship wins before today as well as a fantastic 3-0 slaying of Manchester City in Manc-land. Like City, they replay to get into the 5th round in the coming week and came into this clash 3rd in the form league.
Ex-City hero Rob Earnshaw was out injured but they had one time City target Tyson up front accompanied by Thornill (what's that pert of Cardiff doing playing against us??). FOREST: Smith; Chambers-Morgan-Breckin-Perch; Wilson-McGugan-McCleary-Cohen; Thornhill-Tyson.
In front of an excellent 18,779 crowd on a chilly last day of January meaning it wasn't far short of a City sell out with 1,250 or so Forest fans, City kicked off attacking the Canton Stand end but the game opened in a tired fashion with low thrills entertainment such as could Peter Enckleman keep back-passes in play? He had a few and yes he did ... all except one anyway.
City were generally in control but were creating little. The first oohs and aahs came as Paul Parry sent over a corner and rebound attempt with some venom but neither saw a Blue shirt connect. Forest's first scare was self-inflicted as Peter Enckleman froze on his line leaving Roger Johnson to contest a through ball with Tyson and only just hooking the ball away before he let Encks know what he thought, I'm sure the entire Grange End heard that too.
With Forest happy (or only able) to defend deep, in considerable numbers and with considerable height at the back too, the contest become congested and strangled so it needed a goal to open it up, thankfully it came City's way. Ross McCormack got the ball with few options around him and, for once, finding no Forest defender on him either. His highly speculative shot hit a defender and ran of the box but in prime position for PAUL PARRY who spectacularly smashed the ball precision perfect on the deck right inside the far post, its sheer power beating Paul Smith's sprawling dive. A wonderful hit, the sort he's managed a few times at the Grange End but very rarely at the Canton Stand.
Forest fans had delighted in becoming strangely patriotic and singing God Save The Queen but soon realised that There'll Always Be An England, There'll Always Be A King but There's Always Be A Taffy To Do The Notts Scabs In! ;>)
Parry has played well but not his best during the recent run but was up for it today, that was confirmed minutes later as he won a big tackle tracking back as City were now in full flow and had upped their tempo to leave Forest breathless. They almost doubled their lead as Ross McCormack jinked down the right, slipped a defender and sent a low ball across that Jay Bothroyd met on the full turning with exemplary technique to bullet a shot inches past the post with Smith nowhere.
Parry was closer, Bothroyd closer still and then Jay Bothroyd once more showed outstanding skill to flick a ball past two defenders to send Joe Ledley clear on goal. Joe took a second too long to shoot and as he did, he was taken down by Wes Morgan making a desperate challenge from behind. It wasn't the worst challenge, it was for the ball but, without the benefit of tv, O thought he caught Joe for sure and it was an obvious penalty and, by rules, a red card too. Ref Hegley refused to give it causing fury amongst the City fans but that was barely the start of it as he went on to give a series of balling and inconsistent decisions and, at times, make himself the centre of attention as City realised they were facing 12 reds, 11 in the Forest shirt and that ref with Ginger hair!
The final chance of the half was Cardiff's too as a corner was cleared into the air, Roger Johnson tried an ambitious overhead kick from 15 yards which was blocked and followed up by a rasping Joe Ledley volley which cleared the bar. A tough half but City's quality shone on several occasions and marked them out as the superior outfit.
Half-time: Owain Glyndwr 1 Robin Hood 0
The second period, City's second half apart, was instantly forgettable. Forest brought on a striker Garner as they went 4-4-2 with recognised strikers after a negative first half set up and they benefited from it while Roger Johnson returned with a bandaged right hand.
However the only excitement was apoplexy and the only noise was derision with ref Hegley who was whistle happy, forever talking to Forest players as they clattered in time after time but just when we thought he'd forgotten his cards, out came one for Gypes. Fair enough for his challenge but it was hardly worse than some we'd also seen from Forest men and when an identical foul was committed on Chris Burke, that was a normal free-kick. You did worry whether his erratic ways would affect the outcome of the game and cost City, thankfully they didn't.
Forest were pressing but not really creating, their only chance came from a City error as McNaughton's under-steered back header saw Tyson free but City's central defenders closed him down quickly forcing an angled effort under pressure which was too close to Enckleman, a major let off but the Forest man was closer with a dipping drive that was just over.
Another setback saw Gabor Gypes depart with 20 minutes left and Darren Purse, the man who almost left for Norwich, come on proving that he is still needed around the club at present and mark his mark immediately winning a couple of bug headers although City look more unbalanced as Purse on the pitch forces Roger Johnson to play on the left side in that pairing.
Bothroyd smashed another low screamer which was straight at Smith but he did well to take low down and then the ref got his only cheers of the afternoon as he finally, and long overdue, booked a Forest man but only after 20 seconds of contemplation and then another immediately for dissent.
Calamity almost fell City's way as Purse stumbled under challenge but was adjudged to be fouled which was just as well as Tyson netted with Enckleman caught out before City finally ended the tenseness as 4 minutes remained with a sublime JAY BOTHROYD effort.
Bothroyd took the ball on the Grandstand touchline, came inside, beat a defender inside out, side-stepped another in the box and then shot across Smith to score off the inside of the far post. An audacious piece of skill which sent the roof off NP Towers and, humorously, acted as the cue for upto half the Forest fans to walk out. Bothroyd was booked was removing his shirt in celebration leaving City fans to salute him and wave cheerio to Forest at the same time.
Game over, job done but not before City's fans screamed EDDIE, EDDIE, EDDIE as Mr Johnson replaced McCormack in stoppage time and they chanted it again as he immediately challenged for a header, Darren Purse made a tremendous interception to stop Forest grabbing a consolation and give City their 6th clean sheet in 8 games (the only goals conceded since mid-December are those last kick equalisers by Reading and Birmingham) while Comminges came on and ran onto the pitch for all of 5 seconds before the final whistle blew sop his only work was shaking hands with the Forest men and wondering how to spend his appearance money.
City now travel to The Emirates for the F.A. Cup replay with Arsenal on Tuesday. The money is great but it's a game they could probably do without. The next one that really matters for me is bottom club Charlton away next Saturday, a further chance to build on what is now a hugely exciting season that is producing a real buzz and where City fans, with rare optimism, feel that anything is possible. Given the attitude, flair and tenacity of this side, it genuinely is too. It certainly feels good just being able to dare to dream, long may it continue.