A second-half comeback from Huddersfield Town forced Nottingham Forest into an early exit from the FA Women’s National League Cup on Sunday afternoon as they were agonisingly defeated 4-3 in the preliminary-round of the competition.
A brace from Precious Hamilton and an own goal, after Izzy Sullivan’s cross was turned into the back of the net by a Town defender, saw The Reds lead 3-1 after only 20 minutes. But the home side came out the stronger side in the second-half as they booked their place in the first-round of the cup on a scorching hot afternoon up North.
Andy Cook made four changes to his side that suffered opening day defeat last week as Georgia Hewitt and Sianna Bennett slotted into the defence and Ellie Casper came into the team on the left-hand side. Sophie Walton was also brought into the midfield and was awarded the role of captain for the game as she earnt her first official minutes as a Red.
It was an exciting opening 20 minutes to game as it saw four of the seven goals. Precious Hamilton netted her first of the afternoon as she put Forest ahead on the eighth minute. The Reds threw everything at Huddersfield in the opening stages of the game and Izzy Sullivan was heavily involved in the side’s attack. She bull-dozed her way through the box and cut a short pass back into the centre of the area and Hamilton was on hand to smash a first-time shot past the ‘keeper to open the scoring.
Huddersfield responded immediately as they sneakily drew level through Kate Mallin only a minute later. Town’s captain saw her cross turned shot float over Aja Aguirre in goal and creep underneath the crossbar to level the scoring.
Sullivan continued to stamp her mark on the game as she forced an own goal to re-gain the lead for Forest on the 12th minute. In an exact same position as the side’s first goal Sullivan drilled a hard cross across the face of goal searching for Casper. But an attempted clearance from Charley Evans saw the defender divert the ball past her own ‘keeper and into the back of the net.
Hamilton secured her brace on the 20th minute as she bagged her third goal in two games to put the Reds two goals ahead. Sullivan hit a corner-kick into the Town box that fell perfectly at the feet on Hamilton who blasted a shot over the heads of plenty of blue and white shirts in the area and despite an attempted goal-line clearance the ball crossed the line to make it 3-1.
After a much-needed drink break after the half an hour mark Town cranked up the pressure as they went searching for a way to get back into the game. Mallin continued to cause trouble for The Reds as she had two golden opportunities to draw her side level. The first saw a floating cross that was certain to land perfectly for Mallin inside the Forest box but Hewitt was well alert for Forest to impressively beat her to the ball and make the crucial clearance. Hewitt became a stumbling block for Mallin in front of goal again as she recovered superbly well to get back and block the forwards shot after she went through on goal only minutes later.
The comeback was on for Huddersfield in the second-half and it only took them 10 minutes to half the goal-scoring deficit through Lucy Sowerby. The nuisance forward saw her first strike come bouncing back off the goal post but she followed her shot into the box and made no mistake the second time as she headed her rebound past Aguirre.
Bex Rayner continued to showcase her sizzling talent in Forest’s attack as she did brilliantly to hold off several Town shirts in the centre of the field to keep possession for her side. Hamilton then nipped the ball of her and charged towards goal but her shot somehow avoided the target.
Sowerby drew her side level on the 76th minute with another close-ranged headed effort as she brought the score to three goals each with 15 minutes to go.
Forest didn’t lose faith in the closing minutes of the game as they went searching for a late winner. They looked certain to regain their lead with 13 minutes to go after Sullivan floated a corner-kick deep into the box. Olivia Cook was waiting on the goal-line to knock the ball safely into the back of the net but it somehow flew wide and away to safety.
But a place in the first-round wasn't meant to be for The Reds as Sowerby put her side ahead for the first time of the afternoon on the 85th minute. The striker had been brilliant all game for Huddersfield and she sealed her hat-trick with five minutes to go to deal Forest a late heartbreak.
Forest: Aguirre, Walters (Tudor 87’), Bennett, Cook, Hewitt (Dexter 87’), Walton ( c ), Dalton, Sullivan, Rayner, Casper (Middleton 72’), Hamilton
Subs not used: Davies, Hickingbotham
Bookings: Sullivan 38’, Bennett 73’
Goals: Hamilton 8’, 20’, Evans (og) 12’
Huddersfield: Clark, Stanfield, Legge, Mallin, Nutter (Scholefield 81’), Evans, Danby, Harris, Sowerby, Embley (Elford 56’), Taylor (Griffiths 52’)
Unused subs: Abbott, Joyce
Bookings: Harris 43'
Goals: Mallin 9’, Sowerby 55’, 76’, 85’