Nottingham Forest progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup with Budweiser for the first time since 2005 after a 2-0 win at Preston North End this evening.Jamie Mackie’s outstanding first-half strike and Darius Henderson's final-minute effort secured the win which now sets up a trip to Nigel Clough’s Sheffield United in the last 16.
Billy Davies made five changes from the side that beat Yeovil Town on Sunday. Dorus de Vries made his first start for nearly five months as he replaced Karl Darlow between the sticks while Djamal Abdoun came in for the injured Henri Lansbury. Dan Harding, Matt Derbyshire and Greg Halford also started in place of Danny Fox, Andy Reid and Jamie Paterson while there were places on the bench for Jonathan Greening and Academy midfielder Ben Osborn.
Both sides made a competitive start on a wet and windy night in Lancashire but the first chance fell to the home side. Lee Holmes shifted the ball well onto his left foot before firing an effort just wide of the post as de Vries scrambled to get across.
North End were soon left to rue that miss as Mackie edged The Reds in front on 18 minutes. The hosts failed to clear their lines from an Abdoun corner and after Jamaal Lascelles had laid the ball back to Mackie on the edge of the area, the former QPR man curled a precision finish past the outstretched hands of Declan Rudd.
Forest could have extended their lead eight minutes later as Preston struggled to clear once more. Mackie escaped down the right-wing channel and delivered a dangerous cross which Tom Clarke could only hack away to the edge of the area. However, the onrushing Gonzalo Jara dragged his shot harmlessly wide of the target.
Goalscoring chances were becoming more frequent for The Reds by now and Simon Cox was unfortunate not to get on the end of a devilish cross from Derbyshire just yards out from the North End goal.
De Vries hadn’t been troubled at the other end but was called into action shortly before the half-hour mark. Holmes drilled a low free-kick from the by-line into the area and the big Dutchman had to be alert to palm away a close range shot from Kevin Davies.
The game was being fiercely contested by both teams but Lascelles pushed his luck too far as he crashed through the back of Holmes 35 yards from goal. The central defender was subsequently shown a yellow card by referee Jonathan Moss.
The final chance of the half fell to North End as a bouncing ball inside the six-yard box wasn’t dealt with by Forest. Davies, Holmes and John Welsh all attempted to turn the ball home but de Vries was able to smother and preserve The Reds’ slender lead at the break.
There were no half-time changes for either side but Preston were first to show soon after the interval. With the Forest defence backing off on the edge of the area, Davies fired a shot past a diving de Vries but into the side netting at The Alan Kelly Town End.
Billy Davies reacted by making a double substitution seconds later as Paterson and Radi Majewski came on for Abdoun and Derbyshire.
Mackie was proving a constant thorn in Preston’s side and he was unfortunate not to double the lead on 52 minutes. After a barnstorming run had taken him through both the North End midfield and defence, the striker could only blaze his shot high and wide of Rudd’s near post.
Preston were gamely searching for an equaliser and carved out a good opportunity just after the hour mark. Keith Keane delivered an excellent cross to the back post but Davies got his angles wrong and directed his header wide of the target.
The hosts were battling well at this stage and should have been level soon after. Forest couldn’t get the ball away to safety and as Kilkenny raced onto a shot from just outside the area, Lascelles was in a good position to block before Greg Halford cleared.
There were plenty of tired legs out on the field by the midway point in the second half and both managers reacted accordingly. Preston made a double change as Paul Gallagher and former Red Joe Garner replaced Holmes and Humphrey while Cox was replaced by Henderson for Forest.
Roared on by a vocal home support, Preston were making all the running and Majewski was next to see his name in the referee’s notebook for a late challenge on North End skipper Welsh.
Simon Grayson’s substitutions had made an instant impact and Gallagher came within a whisker of levelling the scores. Henderson gifted possession to the Scot but after racing towards de Vries’ goal, he drilled his low shot the wrong side of the post.
In search of an equaliser, North End made their final change on 78 minutes as David Buchanan was taken off and replaced by Scott Laird.
Forest were living on the edge and de Vries had to be at his best to keep his side in front. The keeper produced a superb fingertip save to deny Gallagher before Lascelles got back on the line to deny Davies a close-range equaliser.
With just over a minute of normal time to play, Garner almost came back to haunt his former club. The Reds couldn’t clear their lines once again and, at the second attempt, Garner fired against the outside of the post via a deflection.
And Forest finally made the win safe with a devastating counter-attack in the final minute of stoppage time. Paterson was able to control the ball and lay off to Henderson who struck a superb low effort into the corner of Rudd's net to send The Reds through at Deepdale.
Forest: De Vries, Halford, Collins (c), Lascelles, Harding, Moussi, Jara, Mackie, Abdoun (Paterson 51'), Cox (Henderson 67'), Derbyshire (Majewski 51')
Subs not used: Darlow, Reid, Greening, Osborn
Scorers: Mackie 18', Henderson 90'
Bookings: Lascelles 30', Majewski 73'
Preston: Rudd, Keane, Clarke, Wright, Humphrey (Garner 66'), Davies, Holmes (Gallagher 66'), Buchanan (Laird 77'), Welsh (c), Wiseman, Kilkenny
Subs not used: Stuckmann, Beavon, King, Hume
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Attendance: 9,744 (Away: 849)