Luke Thomas netted a stunning second-half hat-trick to earn Nottingham Forest’s Under 18s their joint biggest win of the season with a 5-1 hammering of Sheffield United this afternoon.
Kevin MacDonald’s men prepared for next Wednesday night’s FA Youth Cup quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur in fine style and goals from Andreas Karo and Gerry McDonagh added to the humiliation of The Blades at their Redtooth training complex in South Yorkshire.
Five changes were made from the side that impressively squeezed past league leaders Huddersfield Town last Saturday with a 1-0 win, with Richard Dearle, Ismael Diallo, Frederik Nielsen, Dylan Burns and Tom Gamblen all coming in hoping to extend Forest’s fantastic unbeaten run.
It didn’t take long for The Reds to stamp their authority on the game and they took the lead in the opening few minutes. Centre back Karo rose highest from a set-piece to nod past Blades’ keeper Aaron Ramsdale.
With their tails up Forest were their typically robust selves, battling for the ball and harrying the opposition. Dylan Burns had a curling effort from 25 yards well saved by Ramsdale but the game became scrappy for the following quarter of an hour, with both teams struggling to mount attacks with the sticky surface taking its toll.
But the visitors couldn’t be simmered for long and the in-form Kasheme Walton had a shot desperately blocked as he searched for a third goal in the space of six days, following this week’s success for the Under 18s and Under 21s. Soon after, Gamblen went close with a long range free-kick that cannoned off the bar before Reds’ keeper Dearle had to dive smartly to his right to deny David Brooks just before the break.
After the interval Forest really turned on the style and the hosts struggled to contain the brutal attacking force. Thomas headed past the post following bright play from substitute Liam Adams down the right, but the former couldn’t be denied much longer and he extended the lead.
McDonagh sent in a superb delivery towards the back post for Thomas waiting in anticipation, and the flair winger gave the cross the treatment it deserved, calmly tapping it past Ramsdale.
A couple of minutes later it was the well-timed attacking run of Thomas that warranted Forest’s third goal, and his second of the game. Adams grafted on the right and crossed it along the ground towards Thomas, who vacating a similar position to his first goal, smashed home into the roof of the net.
The Reds were surging forward at this point with the hosts looking low in confidence and lacking the belief evident in a Forest team who’d previously won nine of their last 11 games, and they grabbed their fourth moments later. Thomas turned provider racing down the left to send in a pinpoint ball for McDonagh who made no mistake from close range, side-footing in.
Nielsen nearly celebrated the recent announcement of his new deal at the club with a goal to add insult to injury, but Ramsdale denied his left-footed strike from just inside the area following a shrewd lay-off from the very involved Thomas.
And not content with two goals to his name, Thomas sensed the opportunity to steal the headlines and take home the match ball and he grabbed it with both hands. Moving to a familiar forward position, he received a great cross on the run and rifled into the net to seal his hat-trick meaning he now has nine goals in the current campaign, joining fellow potent Under 18s strikers Tyler Walker and Walton at the top of the scoring charts.
The Blades pulled one back thanks to Daniel Cockerline who pounced on a loose ball after the original save from Dearle, but it was a mere consolation for the battered and bruised South Yorkshire outfit who simply could not cope with their opponent’s razor sharp attack.
MacDonald’s men are next in action in the aforementioned crucial FA Youth Cup quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur at The City Ground next Wednesday, 18 February (7pm kick-off). Ticket details can be found here.
Forest: Dearle, Diallo, Nielsen, Karo, Worthington, Otim (Gabriel 76’), Gamblen, Burns (Adams 56’), Thomas, Walton, McDonagh (Austin 76’)