Nottingham Forest exited the FA Women’s National League Plate at the quarter-final stage on Sunday afternoon as they suffered a 2-1 loss away to Middlesbrough.
Bolu Fisher’s second-half strike was in vain as Boro’s two first-half goals were enough to see them through to the next round of the competition.
Andy Cook made three changes to his side that last took to the field two weeks ago as Grace Walters, Liv Cook, Katie Middleton and Sydnie Naylor all came into the starting 11. It was Naylor’s first start for the club since joining in the new year and despite the result it was a day to remember for Annabel McKechnie as she made her first appearance for the first-team in over two years.
Forest dominated the opening proceedings to the game and Naylor came close to netting the first goal in spectacular fashion after only four minutes of play. The midfielder spotted the Boro ‘keeper off her line and took aim from over 25 yards out and her shot looked to be creeping in under the cross bar but the wind took the power out of the effort and the ‘keeper managed to recover well to make the save.
Naylor came close, again to putting Forest ahead on the eighth minute as she smashed a free-kick towards goal but she saw her effort fly just wide of the target.
Against the run of play Boro took the lead through unfortunate circumstances for The Reds. A controversial free-kick was awarded to the home side just outside the box and Hannah Luke curled her free-kick around the Forest wall and towards goal and as Aja Aguirre looked to make the save an attempted clearance from Lyndsey Harkin turned the ball into the back of her own net.
Boro doubled their lead 10 minutes later as a corner ball fell to Olivia Dixon on the edge of the area and the striker did superbly to hit a first-time effort through a crowded penalty and past Aguirre in goal.
The Reds came out hunting in the second-half in search of a comeback and the side enjoyed the majority of possession inside the opening 25 minutes of the half but again, struggled to create any clear-cut chances in front of goal.
The game changed pace on the 69th minute as Cook made all three of his changes as he brought on attacking recruits, Bex Rayner, Fisher and McKechnie who all helped change the game.
The substitutes all got involved immediately and the side came agonisingly close to clawing a goal back on the 71st minute as Rayner’s cross caused mayhem in the box. Phoebe Warner, McKechnie and Naylor each lined up to take a shot on goal from the resulting ball but all three somehow saw their efforts come bouncing back of the goal-line or post.
The Reds were awarded a penalty on the 75th minute as McKechnie was brought down inside the box and Fisher stepped up to take the spot kick. She saw her penalty kick saved by the ‘keeper but she made no mistake the second time as she buried home the rebound to celebrate her birthday with a goal.
Having halved the deficit Forest went hunting for the equaliser and Naylor was involved again for the team as she met Harkin’s looping cross inside the box but her headed effort was captured by the ‘keeper.
Another Rayner cross caused chaos inside the Boro box as the home side failed to clear the ball on multiple occasions but Mai Moncaster and Naylor both agonisingly watched their close-ranged efforts cleared of the goal-line.
The Reds continued to push for the equaliser until the final whistle but the side were ultimately forced to rue missed chances as Boro held on for the win.
Forest: Aguirre, Bennett (Fisher 69’), Harkin, Cook, Hewitt, Tudor (Rayner 69’), Moncaster, Walters (McKechnie 69’), Naylor, Warner, Middleton
Subs not used: Davies, Bonser
Goal: Fisher 76’
Middlesbrough: Wareham, Brown, Luke, Hutchinson, Foster, Watt, Dodds (McQuade), Dobson, Dixon (Bell), Young, Scarr
Subs not used: Wilson
Goals: Luke 26’, Dixon 36’