Nottingham Forest 3 Ipswich Town 0
STUART PEARCE may have some way to go before he can join Brian Clough in a walk across the Trent, but so far he has dipped his toe in the murky waters of football management without too much discomfort. This defeat of Ipswich Town made it three wins, a draw and a defeat since the England full-back reluctantly took over from Frank Clark.
Discussion amid the stamping of frozen feet was not so much about whether Forest could reach Wembley, but if they could make it as a club to the end of the season, such is their perilous financial state. Much rests on tomorrow's EGM when millionaire Sandy Anderson, a Glasgow Rangers fan, bids for control, promising a £20 million cash injection for new players.
The wary shareholders might have grown up on the fable of a man who robs the rich to pay the poor, but are suspicious about why this Scotsman wants to take over a club he has no heart for. He has the local paper on board, trumpeting his intention of bringing Jurgen Klinsmann and Jordan Letchkov on board. It maybe a silk city, but that really is spinning a yarn.
On one subject, however, they are as one. The elevation of Pearce to player-manager has resulted in a change of fortune, seven points from four games lifting Forest from the foot of the Premiership. Not so much Psycho as psychological warfare, though Pearce admitted to the fans in yesterday's programme: "I can't pretend the last two weeks have been the most enjoyable of my life."
Ipswich's hopes of further dampening his enthusiasm were diminished by the flu bug that struck down their leading scorer, Paul Mason. His absence provided YTS teenager, Keiron Dyer, with his full debut. At this stage last season, Ipswich disposed of Blackburn in an Ewood Park replay while Forest's own passage to the sixth round required replays against Stoke and Oxford. This time it was to be a more predictable story.
Ipswich, it seems, were not weighed down by ambition, with James Scowcroft their sole attacker and the midfield heavily padded. Yet they almost took a sixth-minute lead. An ambitious Danny Sonner run ended in him winning a free-kick, which he floated in from the left, and Jason Cundy's header was close enough to cause Mark Crossley some anxiety.
Forest's profligacy has been a feature of their play this season, no better illustrated than when Kevin Campbell drove wide of an unguarded goal after Richard Wright had blocked Alf Inge Haaland's shot. That changed in the 17th minute, however, with no such waywardness from Dean Saunders, who struck the ball home with force and timing after Campbell had headed back Des Lyttle's centre.
The tie was effectively ended in the 27th minute when a fierce centre from Pearce flew off Cundy's foot and Chris Allen was handily placed at the far post to turn the ball over the line. Forest, understandably, dropped a couple of players further back and even they must have felt they could protect a two-goal lead against a side from the Nationwide League.
Saunders should have administered the last rites on the 1978 FA Cup winners when Campbell gave him an unimpaired run at goal but, after taking the ball round goalkeeper Wright, he found the side-netting.
Welshman Saunders, however, atoned in the 74th minute, shrugging off Cundy's challenge to convert Campbell's headed throughball.