Forest Are Champions

Nottingham Forest were crowned FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division champions, for the first time since 2008, on Sunday afternoon, following a 3-0 home win over visiting Stoke City, in front of a 1,700 strong crowd.

Back then, it was a division which contained the likes of Newcastle United, Manchester City, and Aston Villa, as Forest, with some recognisable names in their squad – Andi Bell (current manager at Mansfield Town), Lyndsey Cunningham (now Harkin, current Forest Captain), Kelly Kennaugh, Annabel McKechnie, all donned the famous Garibaldi.

They finished three points ahead of Lincoln Ladies, in what was an unbeaten, league campaign (eighteen wins and four draws from twenty-two outings), scored eighty times, and conceded just twenty-six, with Natalie Clarke finishing top-scorer, ably supported by goals from Beth Bailey, and Andi Bell, all three finishing in double figures.

Dropping off the past last term, Andy Cook’s side finished in fifth place behind Daniel McNamara’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, it was to be a case of second time lucky this time around, pipping Wolves to the prize on a tense, final day.

Forest, Wolves, and third place Burnley, all went into Sunday’s final round of matches knowing that they had to win, and results went favourably elsewhere, if they were to stand a chance of lifting the Northern Premier Division title.

All three sides did just that, Forest saw off visiting Stoke City 3-0, Wolves won by the same score when at Brighouse Town (Anna Morphet penalty, Beth Merrick, and Naomi Bedeau netting), and Burnley defeated visitors Liverpool Feds 2-1 (Evie Priestley and Courtney Willis with the goals), the top two being split by goal-difference, the Reds’ being more superior, nineteen better off than their Black Country rivals.

Now though, it’s a waiting game for Cook’s charges, for they have one more game in which to play, the National League play-off, against the winners of the Southern Premier Division; that league doesn’t finish until this coming weekend, and it’s the same scenario there as it was in the Northern, a three-way dance for the title.

First, to Sunday’s game, Forest hosting lowly Stoke City, who came into the game with one win from their last five outings, to face a home side that were uneaten in their previous eleven (in all competitions), and had lifted the National League Cup the previous week.

A quiet, opening quarter, would eventually see the game burst into life when the breakthrough was made after 25 minutes, Becky Anderson’s initial effort coming back off the upright, with the midfielder on-hand to slot home the rebound for her eighth goal of the season.

Both she, and top-scorer Charlotte Greengrass, had chances in which to double the lead, whilst Mai Moncaster would see her effort, at the end of the first period, saved by Kelsey Richardson (who replaced Freya Heap in the opening minutes through injury) in the visiting goal.

The Reds put Richardson’s goal under constant pressure early in the second period without adding to their lead, whilst home shot-stopper, Emily Batty, prevented a Stoke attack when a cross from Manuela Delle is aimed towards Roisin Kivel in the box, but the home ‘keeper prevents it from reaching her.

Ten minutes later and a cross-cum-shot from Molly Holder nicks Batty’s crossbar, and bounces away from goal, the visitors looking to get something from the contest.

The hosts changed things up as the game passed into the final twenty minutes, Forest boss, Cook, making all five substitutions in one go, before Hayley James saw an effort saved.

The substitutions though had the desired effect in the closing stages of the game when first, Gianna Mitchell headed home her sixth of the season, on 84 minutes, then, as the game headed to stoppage time, Yasmin Mosby slotted home her fourteenth of a productive campaign, with a title-clinching goal, and three points.

In between those two, decisive, Forest goals, the visitors carved another opportunity when a charge down the flank from Delle is cut back to ex-Red, Sophie Bramford, her close-range effort though is saved by Batty.

Of the Forest players, with one game remaining (play-off final), Olivia Cook and Charlotte Greengrass are ever-present, appearing in all thirty-one games, whilst Becky Anderson and Lyndsey Harkin have appeared in thirty; Charlotte Greengrass is the top-scorer with twenty-two goals, Yasmin Mosby has fourteen, with Sophie Domingo and Charlotte Steggles on eleven apiece.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST – Emily Batty, Lyndsey Harkin, Olivia Cook, Charlotte Steggles (Naomi Powell, 72), Sophie Domingo, Mai Moncaster (Yasmin Mosby, 72), Amy West (Niamh Reynolds, 72), Arryana Daniels (Georgia Hewitt, 72), Becky Anderson, Hayley James, Charlotte Greengrass (Gianna Mitchell, 72)

As for the play-off, scheduled for Saturday 20 May, Forest will play the champions of the Southern Premier Division, which, as with their Northern counterparts, is a three-way dance at the death, this between Oxford United, Watford, and Ipswich Town.

Oxford currently lead the way, by a solitary point, from Watford and Ipswich; Watford, who have the better goal-difference of the three sides, will face Billericay Town, away, in their last match, whilst Ipswich host Oxford in what will be an unforgettable afternoon of football down South.

Meanwhile, in the Reserves Midlands Division, Derby County Development have taken the league title with a game to spare following Sunday’s results, County winning 6-2 at home to Sporting Khalsa Development, and Forest Reserves drew 2-2 with Loughborough Lightning Development.

The battle for second is now between Forest’s second string, and West Bromwich Albion Development, who thumped Long Eaton United Development 12-0.

Other games in Nottinghamshire would see matches in the Notts Girls & Ladies League Seniors One, with plenty of goals netted as Arnold Eagles Flyers put hosts Sports Gateway Hucknall to the sword with an 11-0 thumping, and Nottingham Trent University saw off visitors Radcliffe Olympic 8-0.

*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFCWomen the Reds players celebrate a stunning season.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *