Nottingham Forest continued their unbeaten start to the season with a well-battled 3-2 victory away to Stoke City on Sunday afternoon.
Abby Hunt had put the hosts ahead after only six minutes but her opener was cancelled out by Rosie Axten on the 27th minute as she bagged her third goal in as many games. Bex Rayner then secured herself a brace as she netted two goals for Forest either side of the half to give them the advantage. Ellie Bohannan ensured it was a nervy end for Forest as she halved the goal scoring deficit one minute into extra-time of the second-half but The Reds held on to earn their third consecutive win.
Andy Cook made no changes to his starting 11 as he stuck with his side that cruised to a 4-1 win at home to Sheffield FC the Thursday evening before.
It was a nightmare start to the game for Forest as they found themselves behind after only six minutes. Hunt side-footed a first-time effort from just inside the area past Aja Aguirre in goal and into the back of the net.
It was cagey affair between the two sides throughout the next 20 minutes as both teams went searching to get control of the ball and create the next chance of the game in-front of goal.
But The Reds switched it on and on the 27th minute as they pulled themselves level through Axten. Georgia Hewitt picked up a great pass from Hayley James and chased the ball into the home side’s box but her resulting shot was saved by the ‘keeper. Axten’s initial re-bound effort was blocked but the ball fortunately fell back to her feet and this time she ensured her strike crossed the line.
Rayner put Forest ahead only 46 seconds later as she netted her first goal of the season on the 28th minute. Moncaster stole the ball back inside the final third and rolled a pass out to Rayner. She then turned with the ball and placed a great shot under the ‘keeper and into the bottom left-hand corner of goal from 21 yards out.
The Reds came marginally close to extending their lead four minutes later as Lucy Johnson whipped a strong corner-kick deep into the home side’s six-yard box but it was cleared on the goal-line by a defender.
Forest started the second-half proceedings searching for their third goal of the game and had an opportunity only three minutes in. Rayner dinked a cross into the box but as the clearance was made, it deflected back of Sophie Tudor and rolled back towards goal but it flew just wide of the target.
Sydnie Naylor went hunting for her first goal for the side and she had two great chances on both the 74th and 78th minute. Her first was a low-driven shot along the box from just outside the area but the ‘keeper got down to make the save. Her second effort came crashing back of the cross-bar as she curled a fantastic shot towards the top of the goal from distance.
Rayner extended Forest’s lead on the 88th minute as she made it 3-1 with a neat finish. Charlotte Greengrass won the ball just inside the Forest half and carried it into the Stoke final third before slipping a well-weighted pass through to Rayner just inside the area, who took the ball around the ‘keeper and neatly slotted it home.
Substitute Bohannan stole a goal back for Stoke in the first minute of stoppage time as she smacked a volleyed effort past Aguirre from close-range after Forest failed to clear their lines.
But despite the nervy ending for The Reds, the side held on to ensure they maintained their place at the top of the league table where they are currently tied on points with Fylde.
Forest: Aguirre, Greengrass, Harkin ©, Johnson, Hewitt (Brown 60’), James, Naylor, Moncaster (Middleton 89’), Tudor (McKechnie 76’), Rayner, Axten
Subs not used: Scholefield, Reynolds
Goals: Axten 27’, Rayner 28’, 88’
Stoke: Kosinka, Hudson (Bohannan 46’), Roberts, Garner, Pemberton, Hughes (Dudley-Jones 63’), Hall, Hunt, Bowyer, Gibson, Steele
Subs not used: Kivel, Richardson
Goals: Hunt 6’, Bohannan 90’