Nottingham Forest 0 Sheffield Utd 3

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Jack Lester made Paul Hart pay for dispensing with his services last summer on a day when the Nottingham Forest boss was again left tearing his hair out at his side's frontline failure.

The Sheffield United striker returned to the City Ground to pile on the agony for Hart and his former Forest team-mates by scoring one of the goals to fire the Blades - one of last season's beaten semi-finalists - into the FA Cup fifth round draw.

A catalogue of chances went begging either side of Lester's 33rd-minute penalty, before Forest were left to regret their paucity in front of goal with Chris Morgan and Wayne Allison adding to the tale of woe with goals in the closing 11 minutes.

Lester's departure from Forest and subsequent arrival at Bramall Lane has been a significant factor in the contrasting fortunes of the two teams since last season's epic play-off semi-final which United won 5-4 on aggregate.

While Forest are one place and one point off the first division relegation zone, United are riding high in third and again pushing for promotion.

Forest certainly merited at least a replay but confidence is clearly lacking in attack, allowing United and former Notts County manager Neil Warnock to exploit it to the full.

Andy Reid, the subject of a failed £2.5m bid from Spurs in this current transfer window, was at the heart of the early chances.

He first fired an 18-yard left-foot half-volley directly at Paddy Kenny when well placed before then teeing up Matthieu Louis-Jean, only for a free header from eight yards to flash past the right-hand post.

After Marlon King went inches from toe-poking home a low Reid cross, it was Louis-Jean who brought down Michael Tonge in the 33rd minute, allowing Lester to rifle home the spot kick into the top left-hand corner.

Forest should have been on level terms three minutes before the break, with King setting up Gareth Taylor, but despite a clear view of goal, the ball sliced off the striker's right boot.

Lester had a chance to kill off the game soon after the restart but inexplicably nudged a soft four-yard shot into the grateful arms of keeper Darren Ward after the ball had pinballed around the area.

Forest again took control following that but continued to waste chances, although it took a superb full-stretch save from Kenny in the 50th minute to keep out Gareth Williams' crisp, low, 20-yard drive.

Danny Sonner then fired into the side-netting soon after with the goal gaping, before Kenny again kept his side's nose in front by superbly pawing away a rising Sonner drive bound for the top corner.

From the ensuing corner the Forest fans were again left shaking their heads after Taylor contrived to head narrowly over after being left unmarked from six yards.

A dejected-looking Forest were then hit late on, with Morgan striking a spectacular scissor-kick after captain Rob Page had nodded on a Tonge corner in the 79th minute.

Tonge was again the supplier in the 90th minute with an inch-perfect cross for Allison to head home the final nail in Forest's coffin.