Derby day delight for Derby County as first-half goals from Emily Joyce and Ellie Gilliatt saw them take the win against Nottingham Forest. A record-breaking 4,443 fans packed The City Ground to witness history as the local rivals took to the pitch in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier.
Both teams enjoyed spells of possession early in the game but it wasn’t until the 25th minute that there was a real shot on target. Forest went agonisingly close when Becky Anderson swung a brilliant looping ball into the box, however the connecting header was directed onto the post and bounced off the outside.
Five minutes later the home side were awarded a penalty after Freya Thomas was dragged down in the box by two Derby defenders. Rosie Axten stepped up to the spot as the Forest fans held their breath, their team with a prime opportunity to break the deadlock. Ewe Rams keeper Charlotte Clarke had her eye on the prize and guessed the right way as Axten took her shot, keeping the game level.
Despite pressure from Forest it was Derby who found a way to break the deadlock after 42 minutes. There was confusion in the box for the Forest backline and the ball fell to the feet of Emily Joyce who was able to strike it into an empty net.
Just two minutes later the visitors doubled their lead. Ellie Gilliatt unleashed an unbelievable 25-yard free-kick which flew over the heads of everyone in the box and found the back of the net. Scoring her seventh goal in three games she gave her team a comfortable lead at the break.
There was little to report from the second half. Both teams had a number of chances in front of goal and despite another penalty shout for Forest they were unable to find a way back into the game.
Derby took all three points, leapfrogging Forest to go third in the table in their first East Midlands Derby win since 2018.
Derby boss Sam Griffiths was the happier of the two managers at full time, thrilled with how her team had handled such a big occasion. “We talked all week about playing the game and not the occasion so the priority for us was to get the three points irrelevant of who we were playing but it’s nice to do it at the City Ground against Forest.”
After admitting that the late first-half goals changed the team talk she had planned Griffiths added: “We probably knew what we would come out against in the second half, we knew we would come out against a different Forest side and we would probably be on the back foot but they gave us a good game second half.
“Credit to the whole team today, I think they worked hard in what was a game of two halves.”
As honest as ever Forest Head Coach Andy Cook gave his assessment on his team’s performance. “We did as much as we could in the second half, we changed up our formation and the way that we were trying to do things and we got back into the game with a few half chances but we need to make sure we are more clinical and create more in the final third.”
When asked about whether there was a drop in mentality after their missed chances in the first half he said: “We talk a lot about momentum in games and about five minutes before the penalty miss we had a header hit the post so you’ve got to make sure that in those moments you pick yourself up.”
However, the support from the fans was a big positive for Cook: “We’ve seen 4,500 people here today which is a record for this division and is fantastic for the football club.
“I’m just sorry that we couldn’t get the victory for the Forest fans.”
Both teams must now prepare for a quick turnaround as they travel for midweek fixtures. Nottingham Forest face West Bromwich Albion while Derby County take on Loughborough Lightning.