My first experience of travelling to see Nottingham Forest Ladies and a long time without seeing Derby County since the days when Ellie May, Mel Johnson and Nicole Dale played for them. When I first planned to see this game, it was going to be as a neutral with small favour going towards Katie Middleton who once again the great promotion from Nottingham Forest in the build up.
I’ve always been impressed by how Nottingham Forest handles their promotion and media at before and after games. Something a lot of clubs in the higher divisions could learn from as well and this was shown by the bumper crowd at the game for the derby between Forest and Derby as 1,252 people turned up. A turnout Forest had deserved with their promotion and considering the top teams in England couldn’t even pull near them numbers just went to show the power in marketing a game right. It wasn’t needed to move to a fancy ground nor the offer of free tickets and such just some good promo.
So as the game came closer I could not be unbiased anymore with the news of Aja Aguiree and Jordan Atkin going to Nottingham Forest add them to Katie Middleton and I was a fully-fledged Red Army fan. With it being my first journey to the ground, first impressions were something very good as they had a really nice bar with friendly staff, somewhere you could play pool and the ground itself inside was open but in a great position to see the game and enjoy the day.
Something not seen much of lately especially in the lower leagues but a queue formed to get into the ground as people flocked to get inside. Unluckily by the time reached the turnstile they had run out of programmes.
The general manager even said hello and took his seat proud looking over the game as well as the lottery for the team that was going around which I think is a fantastic idea but as we can’t attend on a regular basis something wouldn’t be able to take part in. When the teams were announced I was so happy to see number #18 Aja, #9 Middleton and #10 Atkin all starting the game.
We missed the first five minutes of the game as we were in the queue to get in but as we walked in through the turnstile there was a loud cheer and it seemed as if we’d missed the first goal but it was for an offside call. A fortunate call for Nottingham Forest as Derby were prevented from getting off to an explosive start.
Nottingham were the first to get a hold of the ball and start to create something as they pumped the ball into the box but Derby stayed compact and solid at the back. A ball hit over the top that looked destined to go out of play as the Derby defender tried to see it out but the pressure and pace of Kate Middleton meant she chased the ball down and whipped the ball into the box which nearly led to a goal but ended up in going out for a corner in instead.
The pressure of Katie Middleton keeping a dead ball alive really paid off as the following corner was lofted into the box as Nottingham took the 1-0 lead on the 11th minute as Constantinou proved that if you get it on target anything can happen as the Derby keeper had a nightmare as she fumbled the ball into the net. Nottingham will take the goal any way it comes.
Derby tried to come back into the game but Aja Aguirre showed why we loved her at Villa, she came out to collect the ball followed up by a great low down save from a free kick a few minutes later. Derby had a fair bit of the ball but couldn’t build on it.
On the 29th minute an incredible run by Katie Middleton down the wing saw her glide past the Derby wing back and as she hit the ball across the box it fell to the feet of Jordan Atkin, 9 times out of 10 she hits the back of the net but it unfortunately just went the wrong side of the post but an incredible move and something very promising if Kate and Jordan can link up like this.
Considering it was Jordan’s first game in a while after leaving Burton she did so well to keep up with the pace in a higher division and didn’t look like she hadn’t been playing in division for years already, we sing One Jordan Atkin because as Nottingham will find out soon enough they have a very special player on their books (I could go on and on but back to the game).
Georgia Hewitt stood out in the defence as Derby tried to push Nottingham back but she was all over pitch between her, Grace Walters and Aja Aguirre, Forest took a 1-0 lead into the half time break with Derby not really testing Aja and Forest as they looked good for their lead at half time.
The second half got underway the pressure play by Nottingham saw Constantinou win the ball back and pushed Derby onto the back foot as she drove as the defence, as she slipped the ball into Jordan Atkin it took some great defending by Derby to stop Jordan dropping her shoulder and getting past the Ewes defence. Once again just like the first half Georgia Hewitt was there to make a last-ditch tackle to win the ball back for Forest.
Nottingham made the change of Hamilton (I believe she was #12 for Forest, who had a cracking game up front when she came on, strong and pacey) for Sullivan. With only being on the pitch for a few moments she took the Derby defence apart and she whipped in a delightful ball but it couldn’t quite find the touch to double the lead.
Hamilton wasn’t done there as she had the next chance of the game as well as she hit a thunderbolt that the Derby keeper was equal too pushing the ball to safety. Hamilton was causing real troubles for the defence but all that was missing was the ball hitting the back of the net.
Derby made their first change of the game on the 66th minute as Barber came on to replace Bell. Derby was starting to have most of the ball as maybe Nottingham sat back a little too early in the game and tried to counter the Rams onslaught. Smith took aim and fired towards the goal for Derby but you going to have to do better than that to get the ball past Aja Aguirre as the scored remained 1-0 going into the last 20 minutes of the game.
Ledgistar replaced Newton for Derby as they chased the equalising goal. At this point it was all hands to the pump for Derby as Nottingham tried to contain them with the outlet ball being to Hamilton who was running at the Derby defence.
Jordan Atkin took a knock and tried to play on through it but her game came to an end eight minutes before time. Jordan was replaced by Sophia Bonser.
Derby replaced Newton with Tait in the dying minutes chasing the game. Forest were defending deep trying to see the game out and bringing pressure onto themselves but were staying compact and solid as they were shooting from range or Aguirre was gobbling everything up in the box.
On the 88th minute the game was nearly put to bed again with some incredible work that saw Hamilton beat her defender and open up for the shot but as it curled goalwards the Derby keeper managed to keep Derby in it.
As time ticked into injury time the resolve from Nottingham came to an end as Derby drew level, such a shame for Nottingham who tried to battle hard near the end to keep the 1-0 win. The goal came as Smith curled one towards the top corner leaving Aja Aguirre no chance to stop it.
Neither team seemed happy with the draw as Injury time went on, as Harkin took a shot it got deflected and came to nothing but the real scare came near the end in the 95th minute when Derby’s Redgrave unleashed a shot that looked goalbound if it wasn’t for Aja Aguirre getting a touch on it to push it onto the bar and keeping the point for Nottingham as this was nearly the last kick of the game.
For the neutral this was a great game to watch as a lot of the time it was end to end stuff. It was probably a fair result although the girls will know that this was a missed opportunity.
I will say for Derby, Monique Watson was dangerous all game her control and pace was causing troubles for Nottingham. For me, Aja Aguirre took player of the match but the vote was very close between her, Jordan Atkin, Helen Constantinou and Grace Walters.
It was a fantastic day out and turn out for Nottingham Forest and personally for myself. I am already excited to return to see the last home game when they take on Blackburn Rovers on the 7th April.