The fifth round tie had gone to a neutral ground, because, in two rousing games, Blues and Forest had been unable to settle their differences, drawing 1—1 on both occasions.
Changes had been made in the Blues' side since then, however, the most telling being the introduction of 17-year-old Robin Stubbs at centre forward. Stubbs had made his debut at St Andrew's against West Ham United the previous Saturday and Blues had perked up their form to win 3—0, though Stubbs was not among the scorers. He quickly put that right against Forest — scoring Blues' first two goals as they fought back after being a goal behind after 19 minutes.
Forest were not at full strength — they had four reserves in the side—but they could not have expected such a blitz, especially after taking the lead themselves. But it was Stubbs' tenacity in the middle and the quite bewildering footwork of Harry Hooper on the left wing which decided the game.
The heavy rain had made the turf greasy and the ball heavy — as Dick Neal soon discovered, taking a clearance straight in the face and being knocked out for quite a while. And then it seemed as if Forest were heading for another fine triumph over Blues when Dwight put them ahead.
Morley began the move and Gray put a short through pass to Dwight, the ball being deflected to the winger off Smith. Seizing his opportunity, Dwight, though harassed by Watts, got in his shot and gave Merrick little chance with a fine, low drive.
With Blues still endeavouring to find their feet, the pressure was still on them for a spell and the result could have been far different had not Imlach and Wilson squandered gilt-edged chances by shooting carelessly over the top. They were later to regret their extravagance.
After 32 minutes, Stubbs equalised and discovered the key to the Forest defence. They must have been expecting Astall to centre high to the head of Larkin, but, instead he fired across one of those low, dangerous centres of his. It skidded past a couple of Forest defenders and Stubbs was on the spot to drive the ball home first time for his first senior goal. Eleven minutes later, he had another to go with it and again Astall provided the opening with another of his ferociously-hit low crosses.
Astall had been fouled by Morley on the edge of the penalty area and the defence again were looking for a lobbed centre. It did not come — instead, Astall drove it low and powerfully. Stubbs, who had been lying well back, had, however, anticipated the move splendidly and, running on to the ball, he cracked it first time into the back of the net.
One minute later, it was 3—1 as Gordon, varying the tactics, put Fraser to the test and sent a high lob into the heart of the area. Fraser attempted to punch clear, but had been harassed by Larkin and his clearance dropped at the foot of Astall, who promptly fired it back into the net.
So Blues turned round 3—1 ahead, all their goals having come in 12 minutes, and just to get Forest reeling even more, they added a fourth goal four minutes after half-time. To illustrate just how far the Forest defence had fallen apart... when Hooper collected his goal there was not a defender within yards of him as he picked up a cross from the right wing. His first shot was blocked by Whare on the line but it rebounded to him and, this time - with all the time in the world, he made no mistake.
On the hour, Hooper put in one of his 'specials', a 50-yard run in which he beat man-after-man to lay on the fifth. He pulled the ball back and Astall squared it into the path of Gordon and he selected his spot.
Two minutes later, Hooper again played tricks with the right flank of the Forest defence but was fouled on the edge of the area. It was only a momentary reprieve, for Hooper squared the ball back for Watts to shoot through a crowded goalmouth.
Six minutes from the end, Astall added the seventh with a speculative drive which caught Fraser completely by surprise and then—just to rub salt into the wounds — Gray missed a penalty for Forest, hitting his kick against the bar.
THIS WAS NOT FOREST'S DAY — THEIR'S WAS TO COME IN MAY WHEN THEY BEAT LUTON TOWN TO WIN THE FA CUP.
Nottingham Forest: 1 (Dwight)
Birmingham City: 7 (Stubbs 2, Astall 2, Hooper, Gordon, Watts)
Nottingham Forest: Fraser; Whare, McDonald; Whitefoot, Watson, Morely; Dwight, Younger,Wilson, Gray, Imlach.
Birmingham City: Merrick; Hall, Allen; Watts, Smith, Neal; Astall, Gordon, Stubbs, Larkin, Hooper.
Referee: J. H. Clough of Bolton
For a detailed head-to-head between the two sides, click here