Ten-man Nottingham Forest were forced to settle for a point on Sunday afternoon as their FA WNL match-up with Doncaster Rovers Belles ended 1-1 in front of a season-high crowd.
Despite The Reds taking an early lead through Trina Greaves, Grace Walters saw red on the stroke of half-time and The Belles ultimately used the extra-man advantage as they drew level and denied Forest all three points.
The Reds took an early lead in the reverse fixture of the game last September and completed the same feat again at home as they went a goal ahead after only two minutes. Kelly Darby did well to win back possession deep inside the Belles’ half and slipped a pass through the away side’s defence and into the feet of Greaves. Greaves took her chance calmly as she slotted the ball past the ‘keeper to put her side ahead.
Darby instrumented the attack for the Reds again as she sent a brilliant ball over the heads of the Belles’ defence and into the path of Niki Emery. Emery then hit a great cross into the box that was cleared away but only to as far of the edge of the area where Greaves was waiting to hit another shot but her effort was straight at Batty who denied her again.
The Belles’ had their first opportunity in front of goal on the 18th minute through Lauren Breen. Breen broke into the Forest half and carried the ball towards the Reds’ box where she hit her effort from the edge of the area, but Rebecca Thomas got down to make the save.
The Reds had another opportunity on the half an hour mark to double their lead as Darby’s great pass found Ashleigh Edwards near the penalty area. Edwards and Greaves linked up well and interchanged several great passes but neither player could find the space to shoot and the ball was rolled out to Sammy Conroy. Conroy whipped a cross into the box but Katie Middleton’s shot was saved.
The Reds were dealt a blow two minutes from half-time as Walters was given her marching orders. Walters had timed her tackle late as she brought down Breen from behind and the referee showed his red card as he deemed her to be the last man.
The start of the second half saw the Reds make two changes as Charlie Griffin and Izzy Sullivan were introduced into the game with one making an instant impact. Helena Constantinou won back the ball and carried it into the Belles’ box where she laid her pass back off to Griffin who was waiting on the edge of the area but her shot was wide of the target.
The Reds’ lead was snatch away on the 51st minute as Breen drew the away side level. Breen drilled a shot from the edge of the box that slipped underneath Thomas’ body in goal and rolled into the back of the net.
Forest then began their search to regain their lead and came close on the hour mark. The side broke quickly into the Belles’ box and Middleton fended of several yellow shirts to knock the ball to Greaves but her shot was marginally wide.
Constantinou had the ball in the back of the net for the Reds two minutes later after she picked up a great pass and lifted the ball past Batty in goal, but the off-side flag was raised on the Forest player.
The Reds were gifted a chance to steal all three points two minutes into stoppage time as they were awarded a spot kick. Greaves was brought down inside the area as she was searching to get on the end of Thomas’ free kick. Griffin stepped up to take the penalty for the Reds and smashed the ball towards the bottom left hand corner but Batty got down to make a brilliant save and deny Forest the win.
Forest came agonisingly close 60 seconds later with the last attack of the game. Greaves hit a cross turned shot in to the box that looked to have snuck into the top right-hand corner but Batty heroically for her side palmed it around her goal post to ensure the game ended in a draw
Speaking after the game, manager Graham Abercrombie said: “I thought we were heroes with only playing with 10 players for half of the game, we fought for everything and gave our best.”
Forest: Thomas, Wilson (Hickingbotham 75’), Harkin, Walters, Darby (c), Conroy, Constantinou, Greaves, Emery (Griffin 46’), Edwards (Sullivan 46’), Middleton
Subs not used: Hallam, Bennett
Sent off: Walters 43’
Goal: Greaves 2'
Doncaster: Batty, Belding, Scholefield, Ashton, Marshall, Cook, Bethell, Shuttleworth, Burgin, Watkinson, Breen
Subs not used: Smith, Grey, Paricin, Trevillion, Todman
Goal: Breen 51’