Nottingham Forest 3-1 Boldmere St Michael’s (Women’s FA Cup Round Three)
I’m back in Long Eaton again as Nottingham Forest face their third consecutive home game of this year’s FA Cup. They’ve already beaten Sheffield and Sporting Khalsa and it’s another ‘non-league’ club of these middle England parts, Boldmere St Michael’s who are opponents for round three. I’m back at Google maps as I know the name but am educated online to find that Sutton Coldfield is home of their establishment and has been since 1883.
I’ve never played or even watched them but I’ve kept tabs on results as for years the men’s team has been in the Midland League, now they are in the Northern Premier League Midland Division which is step 4 of the non-league pyramid. My coverage skills usually stop at one level above that tier.
The women’s team are a league below Forest and are going well in the top three of the National League Div One Midlands. I’m more concerned about the weather than the level of football today though as the Grange Park pitch held firm yesterday but it’s not stopped raining since.
The wifes in London taking her niece to the Panto so I’m driving Bruce to the mother in laws before picking up a Sunday dinner on my return, I’m driving down the A52 and down the Toton Lane where I can see the huge Ratcliffe Power Station burning some fossil fuel in the distance. I’m on Station Road and pulling into LEFC before you know it, sun is out, for now as I pull up hop out my car and make my walk up to the turnstile.
Not much different in surroundings from yesterday, other than a few more Forest logoed banners, the pitch looking slightly worse for ware as I walk around the perimeter, I’m checking my phone as I’m tempted to have a tenner on Luton beating Man City as the Boldmere girls enter the field in grey tracksuit tops.
It looks soggy in patches but firm in parts as I walk the circuit before perching up on the top row of the only seated stand in the ground. Boldmere have a radio commentator all set and ready to go. We watch the warm ups as the fans build up around us, a team of young girls no older than eight or nine years old taking pictures by the side of the pitch, they’re mascots today and look to be having fun as their families take photos of them lining up.
Like yesterday I’ve only just sat comfortably into my seat and the home side score with just a couple of minutes gone. Nat Johnson apparently gives Forest the lead but I’m too busy looking down at my phone to change the weather settings for the match to even notice how it went in? The rain has started coming down by the way.
The Reds are the better side though and look to expand the pitch at every opportunity. They pass with good distance, firm and crisp between themselves and stretch the game to wear down their opponents, it’s a tactic I really like from Carly Davies and each time I watch them the side look very well drilled.
They’ve had chances to increase their margin but a soft free kick is conceded half way and a ball pumped into the box causes concern. Evie Billingsley prods goalwards after the goalkeeper Emily Batty makes a hash of things, the ball eventually looks to be headed into her own net by an unlucky Forest defender.
Concerns aren’t caused for long though, Mai Moncaster is sent through and she shoots low and is quickest to react to the rebound to reinstall Forest’s lead, then Louanne Worsey heads home a beauty to provide the Reds with a two goal half time cushion.
In the second half I’m impressed with the guts, determination and workrate of Boldmere but they often leave their striker Billingsley isolated, she can’t lay a glove on the Forest defence on her own as the Reds often leave two at home whilst full backs Johnson and Haughey push on.
Forest should have more as they miss a couple of big opportunities but were almost made to pay for their own mistakes again, Batty this time making a mess of things late on to collide with an away team attacker inside the box, penalty awarded but the spot kick blasted wide… That mistake going thankfully unpunished, before the Referee punished us all for wanting to leave early by taking the match to the 100 minute mark.
Freya Thomas is a player I’m enjoying watching everytime I see her play. She gets it and drives from midfield, is silky smooth and a real talent on the football. Also impressing me were both full backs but Nat Johnson in particular on the right. What I like about her is her crisp direct passing, she makes sure the ball gets to her target and plays with a real intent.
For Boldmere, not much quality but a lot of guts and a lot to be proud of. A couple of big tackles by Hayleigh Sutton even had me wincing, it was a day for getting stuck in and they certainly did that.
An exciting fourth round draw now awaits Forest who’ll be looking forward to a potentially big and attractive tie like when they faced Manchester City in 2022 at the City Ground. That match might have ended in an 8-0 loss but testing themselves against the best is where this side wants to be. They were far too good for Boldmere St Michael’s without playing particularly well. Everytime I watch the Reds I feel there’s more to come but that won’t happen overnight, it may take more time but the futures bright for those in red and white.
Nottingham Forest: Emily Batty, Lyndsey Harkin, Nat Johnson, Sophie Domingo (Alice Keitley 87), Mai Moncaster (Chloe Dixon 81), Hollie Manders, Louanne Worsey, Mollie Green, Freya Thomas (Niamh Reynolds 86), Becky Anderson, Ella Haughey.
Boldmere St Michael’s: Jodie Whiteman, Hayleigh Sutton, Anna Wilcox, Jasmine Sherrell, Jade Formason, Evie Billingsley, Annie Ackroyd, Alima Abdullah, Chloe Bickley, Abby Bevan, Jess Keeling.
2pm Kick Off. Sunday 10th December 2023, Grange Park, Long Eaton (att 250 est).