Nottingham Forest and Watford go at it again this Saturday afternoon, in the play-off for a place in next season’s Barclays Women’s Championship.
The two sides, having won their respective (Northern and Southern Premier) championships, will face each other in what is the last of the National League play-off games, won last season by Southampton (1-0 against Wolverhampton Wanderers).
This season, it’ll be the second time the two sides will have met, Forest having edged Watford in the FA Women’s National League Cup final, in late April (3-2 after extra-time, at Burton’s Pirelli Stadium).
On that day, either of the two title-winners could have been victorious, and both clubs had the opportunities in which to do so in what was a back-and-forth, exciting, exhilarating game.
Watford took an early lead, through Gemma Davison, after just two minutes, before Reds’ top-scorer, Charlotte Greengrass, in what was their goal of the season, equalised a couple of minutes before the interval, the sides going in 1-1 at the break.
Forest led within seven minutes of the restart, through Yasmin Mosby, before a wind-assisted equaliser came the way of Poppy Wilson just after the hour mar; both sides had chances to win it in normal time but, it was to extra-time the contest win, and nearly all the way to penalties, Gianna Mitchell snatching an extra-time winner for the Reds, with around five minutes remaining.
Thus, with the cup final being a tight affair, as expected, a look at the two sides’ respective, title-winning campaigns, delves into how close the two sides actually are and, if that cup final was exciting, then the upcoming play-off should well be just as much so…
FA WOMEN’S NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTHERN PREMIER DIVISION CHAMPIONS
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (Head Coach, Andy Cook) PLD22 W17 D3 L2 F81 A18 GD(+)63
Won the Northern Premier Division, on goal-difference, from rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers, on the last game of the season, a day in which the two, along with Burnley, could have been successful.
Throughout their double-winning, title season, Forest having won a first title since 2008 (and a first League Cup since 2011), the Reds have been quite prolific in-front of goal with 81 goals having bagged in the league alone.
On two occasions during the campaign the Reds have registered unbeaten runs going into double figures (in all competitions), and twice taken a goal-tally into double figures as well; between late September and early January Andy Cook’s side put together a ten-match unbeaten run, before losing to Sheffield United in the FA Cup.
This was then followed by, what is currently, an eleven-game unbeaten run, one which started back in mid-February, and which saw them lift both the Northern Premier title, and the National League Cup, the latter, the 3-2 win over Watford.
Some seventeen players have netted for the Reds this past season, of which four of them have made double figures, Charlotte Greengrass 22, Yasmin Mosby 14, Sophie Domingo and Charlotte Steggles 11 apiece, all of whom scored in the Reds’ routs over AFC Fylde, and Boldmere St. Michaels.
Both on the road, 15 January would see them register their biggest victory of the season, putting Fylde to the sword in a 12-1 win; Mosby bagged a hat-trick, Becky Anderson, Amy West, and two penalties from Steggles, featuring.
Meanwhile, just two months later, on 12 March, Boldmere were hit for ten, this time Greengrass bagged a brace alongside two apiece for both Mosby, and substitute Rosetta Taylor, the Reds collecting a 10-1 win.
Defensively, they’ve been just as good, well-marshalled by veteran captain, Lyndsey Harkin, and shot-stopper, Emily Batty, just eighteen goals were conceded in their 22 league outings; overall this past campaign Batty has made 27 appearances, and kept an impressive 13 clean sheets, whilst the stalwart, Harkin, she’s registered 14 clean sheets in her 30 appearances, scoring once, and assisting with a further seven goals.
As good as they are up-front, Forest are as equally good at the back, Cook having instilled, and stabilised, a winning mentality, and dogged determination in his players, a will to succeed that has shown throughout the campaign.
FA WOMEN’S NATIONAL LEAGUE SOUTHERN PREMIER DIVISION CHAMPIONS
WATFORD (Head Coach, Damon Lathrope) PLD22 W17 D2 L3 F65 A17 GD(+)48
Won the Southern Premier Division, and, like Forest, did so on goal-difference, from Ipswich Town, on the last day of the season, and also in a three-way dance, this with Oxford United also having a chance of taking the spoils.
Despite a mixed bag of results, Head Coach Damon Lathrope has seen his charges overcome cup disappointments, including the League Cup final defeat to Forest, to league title success, and the upcoming play-off match.
The last time the Hornets won the Southern Premier title, it was back in 2006, prior to the current incarnation of the club and, this time around, they’ve been made to battle all the way for it; like Forest, they’ve also put together a couple of unbeaten runs that’s helped them through the campaign.
Between mid-September and mid-November, when they lost to Billericay Town, Watford went eight unbeaten, then, from early March, up to the defeat to Forest in the League Cup final, the Southern outfit were unbeaten in seven matches.
In lifting the Southern title, it was done so, on the final day of the season, avenging the defeat, one of only three in the league, against Billericay, edging Ipswich, who beat Oxford United 1-0 on the final day, on goal-difference.
The Hornets’ have seen slightly more of a goal-scoring spread during the past season, twenty different players having registered for them for which only two made it into double figures, Helen Ward 17, and Poppy Wilson 13, scoring sixty-five in the league.
Watford biggest wins haven’t quite been as emphatic as Forest’s throughout the season, a 7-1 win over Fulham in the cup, back in mid-November; their biggest of the season, a trio of braces from Florence Fyfe, Poppy Wilson, and Bianca Baptiste, featuring.
There’s also been four, 6-0 wins for the Hornets, against Cheltenham Town, and Norwich City (cup), in September, and twice against Crawley Wasps, in December in the cup, and mid-March in the league; it was in the latter of those wins over Crawley where Ward, on as a half-time substitute, smashed home a four-goal haul.
Nottingham Forest Women oppose Watford Women in the FA Women’s National League/Championship play-off, Saturday 20 May, KO13:00; tickets are still available, check with clubs for details, and the game itself is also scheduled to be shown live on the BBC iPlayer/BBC website from 12:50. For regular updates keep up-to-date via the FAWNL Twitter here.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFCWomen one last push is needed for Nottingham Forest for promotion.