The heat is back on Mark Hughes after Manchester City made an embarrassing exit from the FA Cup following a 3-0 defeat to Championship strugglers Nottingham Forest at Eastlands on Saturday.
City players were booed off the pitch after a shocking third round defeat which left them without a win in eight of their last nine league and cup games.
Goals by Nathan Tyson, Robert Earnshaw and substitute Joe Garner earned Forest, struggling in 21st place in the second-tier Championship table, a famous win and left Hughes to ponder another below-par display by his players.
Having already signed Wayne Bridge, Hughes is desperate to add Roque Santa Cruz, Shay Given and Craig Bellamy to his team. Yet it will require more than that to put right the wrongs at City, just above the Premier League’s relegation zone.
City never recovered after falling 2-0 behind in front of their own fans during the first half. The last time a team trailed after a poor first-half performance at Eastlands, the manager delivered his half time team talk on the pitch. Yet Hughes opted against following in the footsteps of Phil Brown, even though City were just as bad as Hull had been Boxing Day.
The hosts were without Robinho, Stephen Ireland and Nedum Onuoha, who were all nursing injuries, yet that was no excuse for a tepid, disorganized and error-strewn display in the opening 45 minutes. They were jeered off by their own fans after a shocking first-half performance that allowed a team lying fourth from bottom in the Championship table to march into a commanding 2-0 lead.
Despite their lowly position that had resulted in the dismissal of manager Colin Calderwood, Forest arrived at Eastlands unbeaten in their previous seven away games. And they once again looked comfortable on their travels as they made a determined start before Tyson opened the scoring with a stunning finish after 37 minutes, his left-foot volley from 25m leaving Joe Hart grasping at thin air.
Forest’s 6,000-strong traveling supporters could not believe it and they were in dreamland four minutes later when former West Bromwich Albion striker Rob Earnshaw doubled the lead after Chris Cohen had dispossessed Pablo Zabaleta.
Hughes looked stunned, as well as ashen-faced. Even a message from Bridge, the new £12 million signing from Chelsea, which was broadcast over the big screen at Eastlands at halftime, failed to cheer City’s fans.
They saw their side produce a brief rally at the start of the second half, Daniel Sturridge and Felipe Caicedo thwarted by two excellent stops from recalled Forest keeper Paul Smith. Yet City’s disastrous afternoon was complete when Garner, who had replaced Earnshaw two minutes earlier, made it 3-0 with a low finish after he had intercepted Dietmar Hamann’s throw-in to Richard Dunne.
Armed with millions of pounds from City’s new oil-rich owners, Hughes will look to strengthen his side in the coming days. Yet a league defeat at Portsmouth next Saturday could leave his position as manager at the club under serious threat.