Nottingham Forest Women 3-2 Middlesbrough Women (FA Women’s National League Premier Division North) 24.10.21
It was a see-saw, battling performance from Andy Cook’s side on Sunday afternoon but a hat-trick, the first of the season for a Forest player, from Rachel Brown, on what was her 21st birthday, sealed all three points against visiting Middlesbrough.
Victory keeps Forest in the hunt at the top, six adrift of leaders Wolverhampton, the Garibaldi nestled in fifth place, although it took a quarter of the game for it to get started fully, and that after the returning Hayley James, following an injury lay-off, was booked in the opening exchanges.
Becky Anderson and Rosie Axten combined on 17 minutes, putting together a lovely one-two before the former unleashed a goal-bound volley which forced a save from the Boro ‘keeper Kayley Dunn, before Freya Thomas is seen to be seen skipping in and out of the visiting defence before being fouled.
On 22 minutes, a free-kick from Anderson, she’d pull strings throughout, would rattle the Boro post from fully 30 yards out, Brown was quickest to react and, on the rebound, taps home the opening goal before the visitors Rebecca Olley tries her luck from the same distance at the other end, but it doesn’t both Emily Batty.
It would be a lead that would last just four minutes however as Boro grab an equaliser as Elysia Boddy grabs her second goal in two games for the Teessiders, before Laura-Jayne O’Neill is forced off through injury, replaced by Charlotte Greengrass and no doubt changing manager, Cook’s game-plan slightly.
Brown, along with Anderson, were proving a nuisance throughout the contest and she was soon firing over following some good play from Thomas as the half headed towards its final five minutes whilst Axten, whilst grounded, had the vision to swing her leg and boot at the ball and hooks the ball across the goalmouth only for Anderson to fire over.
There was time for a third goal in the opening period when, with three minutes remaining, Thomas would release substitute Greengrass, who crossed nicely for Brown to grab her, and Forest’s, second of the game and send them in 2-1 to the good at the interval.
Greengrass would benefit from another Anderson free-kick early in the second half, but she directed her headed attempt wide before Brown misses her first swing at the hat-trick foiled by the visiting ‘keeper (NAME), she saving the attempted header.
A handful of substitutions were made by Andy Cook as the hosts sought that killer third, one which finally arrived with twenty remaining as Anderson, of course, plays in Brown and she is seen to finish with neat aplomb.
Anderson was substituted late on, replaced by Sophie Bramford and, within minutes of the change, Boro pulled a goal back as Felicity Jones nets with an assist from her ‘keeper, Dunn, whilst at the death, heading into stoppage time, Thomas has a fourth Forest goal ruled out for offside, it mattered not however as the Reds wrapped up a 3-2 win.
Next up for Forest Women, a trip to Stoke City Women on Sunday 31 October, but for now, it was certainly a 21st to remember for Rachel Brown.
Forest: Emily Batty, Hayley James (Georgia Hewitt), Lyndsey Harkin, Olivia Cook, Laura-Jayne O’Neill (Charlotte Greengrass), Becky Anderson (Sophie Bramford), Amy West, Freya Thomas, Rachel Brown, Rosie Axten (Niamh Reynolds), Naomi Powell (Lagan Makin).
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFCWomen what a day for Rachel Brown with a 21st birthday winning hat-trick.