Resolute Nottingham Forest had to dig deep at Deepdale to book their place in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup at the the expense of Preston North End on Wednesday night.
The Reds survived an onslaught from the Lilywhites in this Fourth Round replay and amazingly secured a 2-0 win with a first-half goal from Jamie Mackie and a finish from Dariius Henderson four minutes into injury time.
Forest were bidding to qualify from the Fifth Round for the first time since 2005 — and book a place against former player Nigel Clough’s Sheffield United in the process.
Billy Davies’ return to Deepdale saw him rest a number of his first team stars with Andy Reid, ‘keeper Karl Darlow, Jamie Paterson and Eric Lichaj all missing from the team that started against Yeovil Town in the Championship at the weekend.
Kevin Gomis, Rafik Djebbour and Danny Fox were unavailable due to registration rules, while Vaughan and Lansbury fell victim to injuries this week, both being reported to be facing lay-offs of up to three months.
Forest started the better, passing the ball from side to side through the influential Guy Moussi, the Frenchman who had previously bagged back to back man of the match awards.
Preston began to look dangerous down the flanks, full back Keith Keane almost getting in down the left hand side.
Preston went close 15th minute, unknown shooting from 19 yards just wide of Darlow’s right hand post
Forest took the lead on the 18th minute, from a cleared Abdoun corner, the ball fell to Matt Derbyshire who superbly set Mackie to stroke home left footed in to the top corner.
Abdoun, again the threat down the left, was clear to centre the ball - only for the flag to pop up for offside.
Preston responded well, with a wave of support from the crowd. They drove forward, although seemingly lacking the overall quality to break down a solid Forest unit.
Forest replied with a flurry of half chances in close proximity. Jara shot wide, and Cox also put a difficult opportunity wide following a good cross from former Olympiakos man Matt Derbyshire.
Former Ram Lee Holmes was next to threaten the scoreline, firing a free kick goal wards before former England striker Kevin Davies poked it towards goal. Dorus De Vries however palmed it away excellently.
Holmes continued to be a thorn in the side of the Reds’ rearguard when he dashed in to the box, only to be halted at the last by a superb defensive block.
As the half began to come to a close, the Forest faithful and staff alike were in uproar as Kevin Davies inexcusably executed a two footed lunge on the dwelling Djamel Abdoun. The Algerian winger had held on to the ball on the edge of his own box only to be well and truly stopped in his tracks by Davies.
Preston continued to play in Forest’s half, and a slight scramble in the penalty area had hearts in mouths for the Reds only for them to clear to safety.
An open first half came to a close as Forest headed for the half-time oranges in the lead. Preston had put Forest under pressure, but the Reds did look the more dangerous side, with more genuine quality out wide.
At the start of the second period, the home side began to probe the edge of the Forest area, working it well with crisp passing out wide. It was veteran Davies who went close, a left footed drive from the edge of the box flying in to the side netting.
Shortly after Jamie Mackie burst though the Preston rearguard at pace, baring down on goal. After initially escaping the attention of the defenders, they caught up with him just enough to put him off at the final moment. His effort ballooning in to the stand.
Forest then had a goal disallowed for offside which, on second viewing, was the wrong decision. Simon Cox was flagged, only for the subsequent replay to show him level with the last defender.
As chances began to to decrease in numbers, Preston came close again - Davies climbing between to defenders only to head wide.
Preston then came forward and forced Forest to defend admirably, double blocks from the Forest defenders to keep the Lilywhites out.
Preston then brought on the cavalry, Paul Gallagher and former Forest striker Joe Garner entered the fray in an attempt to tie the score.
Almost immediately, Preston had a claim for a penalty. Davies’ strike form inside the box hit the diving Greg Halford’s left hand as he hurled himself at the ball. However the referee was not of the opinion that it was a penalty, and the claims were waved away.
Forest’s desperate defending continued, as the corner came in Forest were forced in to three consecutive clearances to deny Preston a deserved equaliser.
Preston continued to knock on the door of the Forest backline, and Gibraltar international Scott Wiseman cut in from right back to flash a stinging low drive just wide of the post.
Dorus De Vries was then forced in to a good smart low save from a Preston strike, only for the ball to fall to the dangerous Davies. He seemingly was set to tap home, only for it to be blocked on the line.
The constant pressure and attacks from Preston were relentless. As Forest cleared corner after corner, they barely got a breather from the attacks in a manic last 15 minutes.
Preston again came forward, forcing Jamaal Lascelles to superbly block low, only for the follow up to be struck on to the bar from Garner - Lascelles with the block yet again. Courageous defending from the young defender.
The ever dangerous Davies the had a penalty appeal again waved away, a petulant push from Greg Halford in to Davies’ back was not noticed by the officials as Forest survived yet again.
Football can be a cruel game at times, and you had to feel for Preston as Forest doubled their lead, super sub Darius Henderson striking clinically low in to the corner to confirm victory at the last moment after an incisive breakaway involving Simon Cox.
It was not a vintage Forest performance from an attacking point of view, but it was an equally satisfying win as a 5-0 hammering. Forest were fabulous in their defensive work, with a sprinkling from Lady Luck at times. They now march on to Bramall Lane to face Sheffield United in the Fifth Round.
Man of the match: Jamaal Lascelles - influential defending beyond his years