Wolverhampton Wanderers Women 2-2 Nottingham Forest Women (Women’s FA Cup Round Two) 04.04.21 *5-4 on pens aet
Extra-time and penalties were needed to separate Wolves and Forest in what was an enthralling, Vitality Women’s FA Cup clash at the CKW Stadium, Wolverhampton.
A double from Rosie Axten, the second coming from the spot, and adding a third in the shoot-out, it wasn’t to be for Andy Cook’s side who battled to a 2-2 draw over 120 minutes but, ultimately, came up short in the end after a giving what was, ultimately, a heart-felt, tiresome display, leaving it all on the field.
Decked out in their blue and yellow away strip, in the Black Country sunshine, Forest kicked off the first half against a side that contained a number of former players, including their ex-captain, Kelly Darby.
Wolves, who played in their famous gold and black, controlled the first half, both in terms of possession and shots on target, visiting ‘keeper, Aja Aguirre, called into action on a number of occasions, but rarely, over-troubled.
Throughout the first period, Wolves’ duo, Alisha Miller and Jade Cross, would prove thorns to the Forest backline, and, with a couple of stoppages, one to former Forest ‘keeper, Becky Thomas, the hosts kept themselves on the front foot.
Continually probing the Forest backline, there was a hearts-in-mouth moment with ten minutes to go in the first when Liv Cook, last player back, took out the oncoming Wolves attack and found herself in the referee’s notebook, taking a yellow card after Cross was seen bearing down on goal.
A few minutes later and Miller and Cross combined, the latter outstripping the Forest defence but would see her eventual shot drift wide of Aguirre’s upright and, with the seconds running out, Hayley James found herself crossing for Rosie Axten who was flagged off-side with the last kick of the half.
No changes at the break, Andy Cook sent his Reds out with intent upon the restart, and it paid instant dividends as Axten was put clear of the Wolves defence and, with Thomas bearing down, the Forest striker put the ball between the advancing ‘keepers legs, and opened the scoring – Forest were now in the ascendency.
The Reds began to find their rhythm early in the second period and created more chances in the opening fifteen, but struggled to add a second, the hosts continuing to threaten themselves.
Just past the hour mark, Lowri Walker bust through the heart of the Forest defence, rode a few challenges, but was seen to run out of steam at last, her eventual shot comfortably claimed low down by the advancing Aguirre; the Black Country outfit adding a bit of bite to their attacking prowess.
The equaliser was snatched with a beautiful, swinging finish from Nyah Edwards as Forest backed off too much, opened up and fired past the outstretched arm of Aguirre and into the top, right-hand corner; having taken a knock in the lead-up to her goal, Edwards is immediately substituted, Jamila Palmer replacing for the final quarter.
Into the final twenty minutes and both sides are searching for what could prove the winning goal with Cook making a couple of throws of the dice, bringing on first Poppy Schofield, then Sophie Tudor and Mai Moncaster.
A free-kick in the closing minutes, for the tormenting hosts, from distance, was well blocked by the Forest wall, and, after some interchanges throughout midfield, put the visitors on the attack which was snuffed and Cross, who else, found herself racing away down the right, but to no avail, support work being sniffed out.
In stoppage time, another former Red, Summer Holmes, tries her luck from distance but her shot drifts far and wide, with another thirty minutes beckoning, the sides locked at 1-1 at the ninety mark.
At the start of the extra thirty, and after Miller had seen her effort fail to register, the Forest defence is at sixes and sevens and Wolves capitalise as the ball finds its way past Aguirre and into the open net in what could have been an own-goal, credited to Olivia Cook, under pressure from Jade Cross.
Another former Forest player, Amy Dicken, comes on for the industrious Miller after 100 minutes with both sides still showing intensity, and desire, to progress.
A penalty, to Forest, towards the end of the first period of extra-time, levels proceedings for a second time and it’s Axten at the double as she fires the spot-kick high and beyond the outstretched reach of Thomas in the home goal.
Still seeking a third goal, Schofield sees an effort drift agonisingly wide with ten minutes remaining, both managers making changes as penalties loom, Cook bringing on first Katie Middleton, then Rachel Brown, the game fizzling itself out…
And so to the lotter of penalties, and the glory, and heartbreak, that comes with it.
In the shoot-out, and a dozen spot-kicks later, captain Lyndsey Harkin would see hers crash back off the crossbar early on, and, at the last, Olivia Cook, would see her decisive penalty saved by Thomas, Price missing for the hosts but it’s the Black Country side who progressed, 5-4 on penalties, following a 2-2, extra-time draw.
Nottingham Forest: Aja Aguirre, Georgia Hewitt (Katie Middleton, 110), Lyndsey Harkin, Olivia Cook, Laura Jane O’Neill, Charlotte Greengrass (Mai Moncaster, 85), Hayley James, Sydnie Naylor (Rachel Brown, 112), Charlotte Steggles (Sophie Tudor, 78), Sophia Bonser (Poppy Schofield, 71), Rosie Axten.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @Wolves the homeside celebrate their shootout win.