Nottingham Forest forced to scrap team bonding trip as Nuno calls for FA Cup replays to be axed

Nuno Espirito Santo (R) - Nottingham Forest forced to scrap team bonding trip as Nuno calls for FA Cup replays to be axed
Nuno Espirito Santo (right) confirmed the club will need to reevaluate plans they had for a training camp - Reuters/Molly Darlington

Nuno Espirito Santo has been forced to scrap a team bonding trip to St. George’s Park after becoming the latest Premier League manager to demand FA Cup replays be abolished.

Nottingham Forest will face a replay against League One side Blackpool next week after a 2-2 draw which has left Nuno with no option but to abandon his plans over the winter break.

Nuno was scheduled to take his new squad to England’s training headquarters at St. George’s for three days from Monday, with the stay designed to help him further impose his philosophy after replacing Steve Cooper as manager last month.

Yet the Portuguese revealed his frustration as the training camp is now cancelled and he has joined other top-flight managers Jurgen Klopp, Mikel Arteta and Thomas Frank by calling for replays to be removed.

“It is a reality, everybody is aware there is a big congestion of games, fixtures are every day, so it is something we have to look at,” he said.

“If you ask me personally I think it should be finished on the day, extra-time, penalties, and allow the players to have a little bit more time to recover.

“Premier League teams are suffering with that, you know the issues with injuries and one of the things is the amount of fixtures.

Blackpool will now have a second chance to knock Forest out of the competition for the second successive season at Bloomfield Road.

Twelve months ago, under former manager Michael Appleton, they trounced Forest 4-1 to reach the fourth round for the first time since 1971.

Blackpool took a two-goal lead here in under three minutes and Neil Critchley, the League One club’s manager, insisted replays are part of the magic.

“It’s so important for football in general, the level between the Premier League and the rest is getting wider and wider it’s getting harder to cause a cup upset,” he said.

“I think it’s such an achievement to cause an upset so if you get a second chance to do it we’ll rip your hand off at that.

“Yes, it’s a busy schedule but so what, get on with it. This is something like our 36th game this season, the Premier League teams don’t get that.

“Tough, it’s football, let’s get on with it. There’s something magical about this cup competition so why can’t we go and create a happy memory for ourselves?”

Eighth in League One, and four points outside the play-off positions, Blackpool stunned the City Ground into silence in a sequence of two minutes and 46 seconds.

With Nuno forced into a defensive reshuffle, with Willy Boly and Moussa Niakhate missing due to the Africa Cup of Nations, they were two poor goals for Forest to concede.

The first came after Karamoko Dembele’s cross into the penalty area was headed clear by Gonzalo Montiel into the path of Jordan Gabriel, who had a simple task to nod the ball into the net from eight yards.

Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel - Nottingham Forest forced to scrap team bonding trip as Nuno calls for FA Cup replays to be axed
Nottingham Forest academy graduate Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel gave Blackpool an unlikely lead at the City Ground - Getty Images/Darren Staples

A former Forest academy graduate, Gabriel was sold to Blackpool in 2021 after making just seven appearances and refused to celebrate.

Blackpool increased their lead in the 27th minute, exposing further sloppy defending when CJ Hamilton eluded Forest captain Joe Worrall to cross into the box and Albie Morgan was waiting at the far post to slot home.

As frustration started to mount among the home supporters, Forest responded six minutes before half-time with Nicolas Dominguez heading Montiel’s cross into the corner.

Nuno sent his players out early for the second half and whatever he said in the dressing room provoked a reaction.

Forest were vastly improved, playing with more urgency and control. The equaliser came 11 minutes in, and was an outstanding finish from Morgan Gibbs-White.

Taking the ball just inside the penalty area from Callum Hudson-Odoi, he then crashed a shot into the top corner.

Blackpool’s goalkeeper Daniel Grimshaw then took centre stage, producing a fine save from Ryan Yates as the pressure became relentless in the final 15 minutes.

Neco Williams, a substitute, was denied by Grimshaw and then, in the final seconds, Chris Wood could not stretch to convert Hudson-Odoi’s low cross at the far post.

They will meet again in a replay which one manager could do without, while the other cannot wait.

Luton held in match that had Championship written all over it

If you want a mark of the difference between the Premier League and the rest, it is most clearly obvious in the response to the necessity of an FA Cup replay.

After a goalless draw with League One Bolton, a stalemate as stale as a leftover Christmas mince pie, Luton’s manager Rob Edwards grinned wide when asked if he was looking forward to another game furring up his schedule.

“Credit to Bolton, they’ve got a result,” he said. “I was disappointed we’ve not managed to get the job done today. We’ve a different schedule now. That’s the reality. We’ve got to deal with it.”

Bolton manager Ian Evatt, on the other hand, appeared delighted with another game. Not so much that he had another opportunity for his side to test themselves against Premier League opposition, but for the money.

“This football club has really suffered,” he said. “To get it back to where we want it to be requires revenue. Hopefully a television game will get us back on the path to where we want to be.”

The way things are going, with Luton becalmed in the Premier League relegation zone and Bolton sitting second in League One, this could well be a fixture that takes place in the Championship next season. In which case, not many will be licking their lips. A superb Alfie Doughty drive that rasped against the Bolton post aside, this was a game of few chances, few opportunities, few moments to drive the paying customer to the edge of their seats.

The gap between the two teams was perhaps at its most obvious when Luton’s midfield manufactured a superb sequence of short, sharp passes which ended up with Albert Sambi Lokonga hammering a shot just wide. Bolton never came close to matching that level. But then they didn’t have Ross Barkley at the heart of their side.

However, perhaps the biggest difference between the two set-ups came after Teden Mengi appeared to bring down Dion Charles in the area and the Bolton fans chanted for the intervention of VAR. Fans actually wanting VAR? That was new. But neither Andy Madley, nor as it happens VAR, were interested. And a perhaps more standard reaction to the process was Edwards’s. He was not happy when Doughty was brought down as he attempted to reach the rebound after his shot had hit the post.

“I’m not sure what VAR was thinking, a big mistake,” was his conclusion. “We haven’t lost the game, we can’t think negatively we’re still in the competition, the frustration is we didn’t do the business on the day. And VAR didn’t help.”

Some things, then, don’t change, whatever the competition.

Bamford stunner eases Leeds to victory

Patrick Bamford’s moment of brilliance lit up Leeds’ smooth passage as they eased to a 3-0 win at Peterborough.

The forward was handed only his second start of the campaign as boss Daniel Farke rang the changes.

And Bamford responded by delivering a stunning strike shortly after half-time to double an advantage provided by Ethan Ampadu’s first goal in Leeds colours.

Captain Ampadu then sealed the win late on as his sudden taste for scoring continued.

“It was alright,” joked Farke when asked about the quality of Bamford’s goal.

Leeds United's Wilfried Gnonto reacts after Leeds United's Patrick Bamford scores their side's second goal of the game during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match at the Weston Homes Stadium, Peterborough
Leeds United's Wilfried Gnonto reacts after Leeds United's Patrick Bamford scores their side's second goal of the game during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match at the Weston Homes Stadium, Peterborough

“The whole world will praise this goal as being world-class. There are no other words for it.

“I’m delighted for him and he deserves it, but for me it is more important that he is back to his fitness level, in a good rhythm and to work for the team.

“Goals are always priceless for the confidence of offensive players and I’m sure he would take a rebound from two yards but, of course, to score in this fantastic manner is even better and he is on the right path.

“We rested some players and gave valuable minutes to others, but we were clear we wanted to win this game and go into the fourth round.

“It is never easy when you have six changes and two players also playing different positions, but it was a concentrated performance.

“It was a tight game, but we won it comfortably with three goals and a clean sheet.”

West Brom swat minnows aside

West Brom cruised into the fourth round after a first-half blitz against Aldershot.

Early goals from Nathaniel Chalobah and Jovan Malcolm set the Baggies on course for a 4-1 win and ended any thoughts the National League visitors had of a shock.

Daryl Dike – making his first appearance since April following a serious Achilles injury – added a third before half-time with the gulf between the Championship promotion-chasers and the Shots obvious.

West Brom boss Carlos Corberan saluted the returning Dike after the striker ended his eight-month injury nightmare.

Corberan said: “The way he celebrated the goal says many things about how much he has been suffering, how important it was to score, how important he is for us in the the dressing room.

“Afterwards, the players gave him a big round of applause. They were celebrating he has come back with the group and scored the goal because eight months out, managing the injury, is difficult especially for him after suffering injuries.

“To come back was an important step for us. It’s a massive step. We need to keep working on his adaptation to football again, hopefully we can keep growing in the process.

“To achieve something in the Championship you need to not have a lot of injuries. To have Dike as striker is always a positive.”

There were never any hopes of a comeback and Tom Fellows’ first senior goal completed the scoring late on before Ollie Bray’s consolation.

O’Connor wins it as Wrexham knock out rivals Shrewsbury

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney appear to have FA Cup fever – just like their Wrexham team.

The Hollywood stars were watching from their homes in the United States as Wrexham won 1-0 at local rivals Shrewsbury, courtesy of a goal from defender Tom O’Connor in the 72nd minute.

The Welsh club will find out on Monday who their opponents in the fourth round are – and there is a good chance it will be a team from the Premier League.

“Deadpool” star Reynolds posted a picture of himself on X, sitting next to fellow actor Hugh Jackman while watching the Shrewsbury-Wrexham match.

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