A crowd of 26,465 saw Nottingham Forest denied a fifth consecutive home win by a defiant Preston North End in the FA Cup with Budweiser this evening.
Forest had early chances through Simon Cox and Greg Halford but were unable to find a breakthrough against their resilient League One opponents.
Billy Davies made two changes to the side which beat Blackburn Rovers 4-1 last weekend. Eric Lichaj, who missed The Reds’ previous two matches through injury, was handed a start in place of Dan Harding, while Radi Majewski stepped in for the suspended Henri Lansbury. Cox continued up front, flanked by Jamie Mackie and the FA’s Player of the Third Round Jamie Paterson.
And it was Paterson who offered the first shot on a cold, damp evening on Trentside. He sent the ball flashing wide of Declan Rudd’s post on four minutes.
Forest were bossing the early stages and drew a fine save from Rudd on eight minutes. Majewski’s low cross found Cox who took a touch, spun and blasted the ball towards the top corner. Rudd was positioned well at his near post but still had to react acrobatically to turn the ball behind. Halford got away from his marker to meet Andy Reid’s subsequent corner but he could only head the ball over.
Keen to assert themselves on the match, Preston carved out two opportunities in quick succession courtesy of right-winger Chris Humphrey. The Jamaican pulled the ball back for Paul Gallagher on 13 minutes but the former Leicester man didn’t strike the ball cleanly and it was blocked on its way to goal.
Two minutes later Humphrey worked another good position down the right, this time crossing for former Red Joe Garner, who had netted a hat-trick against Ipswich Town to set up tonight’s tie. Garner met the cross first time but was left frustrated as the ball flashed over the angle of Karl Darlow’s post and crossbar.
The hosts were dominating possession but struggling to break down their determined visitors, so much so that Forest had to wait until the 37th minute for their next chance. Majewski spotted Gonzalo Jara’s darting run down the right and rolled the ball into the Chilean’s path. Jara found Jamie Mackie with his pull-back from the byline, but the forward could only shoot high and wide under pressure from North End’s stubborn defence.
Preston appeared content to take the 0-0 scoreline into half-time, forcing Forest to be patient in possession by often keeping 11 men behind the ball. David Vaughan took a direct approach towards unlocking The Lilywhites’ rearguard, racing down the left and skidding a dangerous, low cross into the middle. Bailey Wright slid in at his near post to put the ball behind - the final action of a cagey first half.
There were no changes at the break for either side and Forest soon resumed their dominance in possession. Preston’s Garner claimed the first shot of the half however, sending the ball two yards over the bar with a well-struck effort from 20 yards. Gallagher tested Darlow minutes later, skidding the ball along the greasy surface from distance. Darlow made the save but the ball squirmed away from him. Thankfully, no Preston players were on hand to capitalise and the keeper smothered the ball.
Forest then made two changes as Cox and Mackie made way for Darius Henderson and Djamal Abdoun.
The visitors had grown into the game by this stage but both sides were still finding clear-cut chances hard to come by. Gallagher saw his free-kick saved by Darlow and John Welsh blasted the ball over the bar for the visitors.
The Reds responded through Abdoun, whose low cross from the left evaded Henderson and Paterson as the ball skidded across the face of goal.
With 15 minutes to play Lee Holmes, on for Humphrey, sent the ball along zipping along the turf from speculative range. Darlow held on at the second attempt.
Matt Derbyshire was then sent on in place of Majewski as Forest sought a winner, but it was through Reid that they would next come close. Henderson picked the ball up on the edge of the ‘D’ and was forced wide, eventually cutting the ball back to Vaughan 22 yards out. The Sunderland loanee swept it right to Reid, who curled the ball wide.
The game’s intensity appeared to move up a notch as the prospect of a replay beckoned. Holmes saw a shot blocked by Lichaj, and his delivery from the subsequent corner was perfect for Iain Hume. The Canadian could only head the ball over.
A minute later the ball fell for Jack King, on for Garner, on the edge of the area. His stinging volley spilled out of Darlow’s grasp but Forest cleared the danger.
In the first of three added minutes Abdoun hung up a cross at the back post for Derbyshire. While Rudd scampered to his left and dived, Derbyshire’s headed effort never looked truly threatening.
The last kick of the match went to Preston, but Josh Brownhill couldn’t hand the visitors a dream finish. Darlow pushed his 25-yard free-kick to safety and referee Mike Dean blew for full-time, setting up a replay at Deepdale.
Forest: Darlow, Jara, Halford, Collins, Lichaj, Vaughan, Mackie (Abdoun 60'), Majewski (Derbyshire 74'), Reid (c), Paterson, Cox (Henderson 60')
Subs not used: De Vries, Harding, Lascelles, Moussi
Preston: Rudd, Wiseman, Clarke, Wright, Buchanan, Welsh (c), Brownhill, Kilkenny (Hume 82'), Humphrey (Holmes 71'), Gallagher, Garner (King 85')
Subs not used: Stuckmann, Laird, Beavon, Keane
Referee: Michael Dean
Attendance: 26,465 (Away: 2,055)