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FA Cup: Forest 0-1 Watford

On a blustery day at the City Ground, Watford ended Forest's long unbeaten run in rather cruel circumstances.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

On the pitch, there was little between the two sides on show here.

Amidst a freezing wind that bit at exposed skin with pincer-like teeth, the match played out rather like an elderly fitful sea-lion sunning itself on a large rock for the entertainment of a gaggle of punters: dormant for long periods and only showing signs of life when prodded with a large stick from a distance.

The action was mostly confined to the central area of the pitch (rather like a grumpy old sea-lion's unfolded and enormous belly) with goal-mouth action about as frequent as a footballer with simple and tasteful black boots. Forest boss Dougie Freedman freshened things up a little after a hard slog of a month in terms of games played, giving experienced fringe players such as Deter Blackstock and Kelvin Wilson an opportunity to run around in the wind and stake a claim for more regular starts. Quique Sanchez Flores - with his trendy trainers and erudite cool which emanates more than a faint whiff of a successful career in cutting edge architecture - saw Freedman's hand and raised it by letting Odion Ighalo put his feet up on the bench.

Forest started brightly, powered by youth with youngsters Oliver Burke and Jorge Grant scampering around with glee and settling into the game well. As the first half wore on though, the away team grew into their groove. Nonetheless, there were precious few moments of quality to be enjoyed here. Just when the drooling mess of a first half was drawing to an end after 45 minutes of numerous players scuffing, mistiming and generally poor decision-ing it, Jamie Ward stole the ball from a ponderous Ikechi Anya and bore down on goal. In terms of creating the chance and fashioning an opening for a shot, he did everything right...apart from the most important aspect of the whole enterprise. Rather like a newly-wed groom preparing a tray laden with croissants, champagne and fresh coffee for his bride's breakfast in bed, he only went and offered such an array of beautifully crafted presents to the wrong room, rather startling the elderly gentlemen sat up in bed reading The Telegraph in bed. Ah well. These things happen.

Little changed after the interval and the action played out much like before with any creative approach work snuffed out at the last minute by indecision or poor choices from both teams. Doris de Vries was called upon to reach out a claw and somehow deny Nordin Amrabat's top corner bound shot. But Watford had been largely stifled and Ighalo was called upon to do something about it - this he did in the 89th minute after Kelvin Wilson went and dropped his basket of muffins on the floor only to see Ighalo dutifully pick one up and stuff it in his cake-hole. Job done.

There were though numerous crumbs of comfort to be had on the part of the home side.

David Vaughan is a man out of time. He looks more suited to the cobbled streets of an 18th century northern mill town on a grey and windswept morning, ambling down a rolling street amidst homely cottages and freshly-swept doorsteps, dropping off the day's freshly baked bread and receiving a friendly ruffle of the hair from all that receive his products.

Indeed, Troy Deeney is still wandering around in a confused daze trying to work out just exactly how it was that some little man managed to repeatedly nick the ball from his toe and muscle him off the ball. He is currently believed to be in the deep throes of a reasonably severe existential crisis. As for Vaughan, he has quietly been going about his effortless bread delivery business all season now and surely deserves to trade assorted bread products with those fancy-dan Europeans in June.

Jorge Grant played with confidence and assuredness in amongst a congested midfield and served notice to all that he can be relied upon to do such a job in amongst the hurly-burly of the Championship if required.

As for the old guard like Blackstock and Wilson, it was an afternoon of mixed fortunes and both men, showing why they generally spend their Saturday afternoons cutting the half-time oranges and sweeping the dressing room. In fairness, Wilson produced one of his more impressive performances in recent times, marshalling the back line, shackling Amrabat and generally playing a huge role in ensuring de Vries was able to focus on his incessant yawping and honking rather than have to trouble himself with making saves. But then again, his momentary lapse of concentration is something that he has in his abundance.

As for Blackstock, unless he connects with a clean header at the far post to nod one in (which is his habit on the odd important occasion), it is difficult to see what he brings to the team. He lacks mobility (admittedly, not really something he should be castigated for owing to some horrific and long term injuries) and seems increasingly unable to hold the ball or up or find a man with his flick-ons. In a team which willingly cedes possession, the role of the target man to run the channels to create space or to indeed exhibit the close control to hold the ball around which onrushing midfielders can feed off his flicks, perhaps he isn't quite the droid we are looking for. That's not to say that he is utterly worthless and should be unceremoniously thrown to the trash-heep - just that he lacks the pace and assuredness required as a focal attacking point for a counter-attacking team when deployed from the start.

Chris Cohen was great though, wasn't he? Not great in terms of a heroic, chest-beating classic marauding performance from left-back, but rather great in that as the game wore on, he looked increasingly like the Chris Cohen we all know and deeply love: continuously helping a mate out by moving into a position into which he could receive the ball and ease the pressure, great in increasingly overlapping his left winger to offer width from the left hand-side when he could be forgiven for sitting back and taking it easy. Just great to see signs that he can still be a very important cog in this side.

It was cruel way to bow out of the FA Cup and while a goal rarely looked forthcoming from a bit of a stale bread-crumbs of a game, there was more than enough on display here to indicate an increasing togetherness amongst the team.