Nottingham Forest Under 18s were dumped out of the FA Youth Cup after they were well beaten by Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park this evening.
Rovers striker Jack Vale opened the scoring before Brennan Johnson cancelled out the opener when he converted a penalty just a few minutes later. But Vale would go on to score a hat-trick with captain Hayden Carter and Kyle Connell adding two more as the home side ran riot on a cold evening in Lancashire.
Manager Gareth Holmes named a strong starting eleven with Riley Harbottle taking the captain's armband and Jayden Richardson, Arvin Appiah, Brennan Johnson Yassine En-Neyah also lining up for The Reds as they looked to progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup.
It was The Reds who made the stronger start to the cup tie, zipping the ball around with real purpose and confidence. That quickly showed when a strong run from Appiah allowed him to feed through En-Neyah whose effort was comfortably held by the Rovers goalkeeper.
Appiah already looked lively when he made a scintillating run down the right side, skipping past the Blackburn full-back with ease before winning a corner. From the resultant corner, Harbottle headed it harmlessly wide. Forest continued to apply the pressure and came close when Luke McCormick's corner flashed across the face of goal without a touch from anyone.
Blackburn did have the ball in the net on 13 minutes when Vale lashed the ball home from close range but the linesman had his flag up, cancelling out any potential opener. But five minutes later Vale did have his goal as he put Blackburn into the lead. A through ball found Vale who rifled his initial effort straight at Rudolfs Soloha in the Forest goal before he collected the rebound and fired it into the net.
Forest had the perfect chance to reply to the early opener however when Johnson was brought down in the area with referee Simon Mather awarding a penalty. A stunning ball from the outside of the foot by Appiah played through Johnson who raced into the area, inviting the challenge. Johnson then calmly stepped up to convert the penalty and slotted it into the bottom right-hand corner.
A busy first-half continued when Blackburn retook the lead through Vale once again. The home side played the ball out wide to George Wilson who whipped in a teasing low cross-shot that found Vale at the back post who was on hand to prod home. In the 35th minute Rovers then doubled their advantage through captain and defender Carter. The ball dropped to the Blackburn man who was all alone at the corner and he had time to bring it down and volley it into the top right-hand corner.
Moments later Brennan Johnson was extremely unlucky not to pull a goal back when he was found in the box after some good work from McCormick. Johnson faked the shot, swivelled and fired a shot goalwards which Rovers 'keeper Matthew Campbell nearly spilled into his own net. Johnson came close again soon after when he raced into the area but narrowly placed his effort into the side netting.
A rather frustrating half for The Reds who showed some real signs of promise yet they found themselves 3-1 down at the break.
It was Blackburn who had the better start to the second-half and they had a wonderful opportunity to extend their lead when they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area. Daniel Butterworth drilled the effort towards goal but a Forest defender did well to block the shot.
Forest then carved out a good opportunity of their own when a tidy one-two between McCormick and Richardson created some space for the latter, but he dragged his shot over the bar. Johnson was the next man to have an opening for The Reds when he nodded over the bar from a free-kick taken by McCormick as The Reds looked to find a way back into the game.
Both sides continued to try and find the next goal with either side failing to create any clear-cut chances but Jayden Richardson was unlucky not to grab a goal back when he hit a shot after a strong run forward but Campbell in the Blackburn goal got down well to parry the effort away.
But things got worse for The Reds when Vale completed his hat-trick for the home side. The young striker was played through, shrugging off the challenge of a Forest defender, and slotted it past Soloha on 73 minutes. Vale nearly had his fourth a couple minutes later when he tried an audacious chip from 25-yards out but Stewart did tremendously well to clear the ball off the line.
With just seven minutes remaining Blackburn had the ball in the net again after a corner was headed home but the referee awarded a free-kick to Forest after Soloha was deemed to have been fouled. But Rovers did hit five when substitute Kyle Connell scored for the home side. Jack Evans rifled an effort that cannoned off the cross-bar before the ball was played back into the middle where Connell was on hand to convert with the home side going on to comfortably win the game 5-1.
Forest: Soloha, Richardson, Harbottle (c), Stewart, Preston, Smith, Charlesworth (Barnes 85'), Appiah (Bondswell 89'), En-Neyah, McCormick (Mighten 68'), Johnson
Unused subs: Shelvey, Ram
Goal: Johnson pen 23'
Blackburn: Campbell, Carter (c), Thompson, Buckley, Jones, Barnes, Vale (Whitehall 82'), Evans, Butterworth (Burns 89'), Wilson, Dolan (Connell 65')
Unused subs: Boyomo, Winterbottom
Goals: Vale 19', 27', 73', Carter 36', Connell 85'
Bookings: Buckley 32', Butterworth 75'
Referee: Simon Mather