FAWNL Play-off: Nottingham Forest v Watford
Watford earn promotion to the Championship in a 1-0 victory at Stadium MK
21 May 2023
Poppy Wilson headed in the only goal of the match in the 17th minute as Watford beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 to win the FA Women’s National League Championship Play-Off Final, and promotion back to the Women’s Championship at the first attempt. In an entertaining match, both sides had chances but Wilson was the only one to find the back of the net. Forest weren’t clinical enough with their opportunities, and Watford goalkeeper Jacqueline Goldsmid made a few good saves to deny them.
It had already announced that this would be the last play-off between the winners of the National League Northern and Southern Premier Divisions to decide the single promotion spot. From next season, both Premier Division champions will be promoted with the bottom two in the Championship relegated. The sides had met in the League Cup final last month which Nottingham Forest won 3-2 after extra-time.
The supporters of both clubs, just over 3,000 of them, were making a good noise before the start of the match on a nice sunny afternoon at Stadium MK.
Both sides had early chances. A great ball found Bianca Baptiste but her cross couldn’t find any of her Watford teammates. Forest’s first effort came in the 5th minute when Charlotte Greengrass’ shot was easily saved. Goldsmid got down and saved with her legs to stop an effort from Yasmin Mosby after she had been played in by Sophie Domingo. Annie Rossiter saw a half-chance go wide for Watford in the 16th minute.
Watford did take the lead a minute later when Gemma Davison’s cross from the left side found Wilson at the far post and she headed the ball into the net.
Forest had a chance on the break in the 22nd minute but Domingo saw another effort saved. A free kick a couple of minutes later caused the Watford defence problems before the ball was cleared.
As the game approached the half-hour mark, Forest came close to equalising but Rebecca Anderson put her free-kick narrowly the wrong side of the post. Their front three of Domingo, Mosby and Greengrass were playing some nice combinations but they just couldn’t take any of the chances they were creating.
Wilson, who impressed me during the first half, was finding space for the Golden Girls but saw an effort blocked in the 41st minute, and then seconds later sent a shot from 35-yards not far wide. In stoppage time, Wilson couldn’t get on the end of a free kick in front of goal. Charlotte Steggles had the final chance of the half for Forest but put her effort wide of the post.
Greengrass saw an effort easily saved in the first five minutes of the second half after a free kick had been played in as Forest looked for an equaliser. There was nice build up from Davison and Wilson as Watford attacked but the final ball was too far in front of Rossiter, then Wilson saw a header cleared. At the other end in the 54th minute, a cross came off Mosby and went narrowly wide.
Andria Georgiou, who was named as Player of the Match, and Alison Pausch were making some fantastic tackles for Watford to stop Forest attacks. Watford had the ball in the net again in the 62nd minute but this was disallowed for offside, despite the music blasting out and the scoreboards showing multiple goals for and against both sides. Four minutes later, Rossiter put an effort over from an angle.
Domingo played the ball back to Amy West in the 70th minute but her shot flashed just wide of the post as Forest went close again to levelling. Sophie Mclean sent a shot wide for Watford three minutes later.
Greengrass headed over a free kick with ten minutes remaining for Forest. The Watford fans were singing and encouraging their side as the match entered the final five minutes. The Golden Girls dealt with what Forest threw at them during the five minutes of injury time, including Goldsmid getting booked for a committing a foul outside the area to stop an attack. Anderson sent the resulting free kick wide. That was their last chance of the match as the final whistle went seconds later, sparking celebrations amongst the Watford players and fans.
Speaking to the media after the match, Watford head coach Damon Lathrope said he “was over the moon” after winning. He felt for Forest as “they deserved to be promoted, they won their league and it is a sour one with the rules changing next year”. Lathrope thought his side had a “little bit more control, and if we had cutting edge in the final third, we maybe could have got a second goal and killed the game”. He praised goalkeeper Jacqueline Goldsmid saying she “came good today and deserves some recognition after making some very vital saves”. Lathrope said the Watford fans were a massive factor and gives them “that extra motivation and energy when we need it” and their support “is much appreciated.” He finished by admitting they will have a lot of work to do next season in the Championship and it is going to be very tough but “we will enjoy this success first.”
Nottingham Forest manager Andy Cook said that after winning the league and cup, the feeling after losing this match is “it’s almost worthless, we have done all that work, we have done brilliantly throughout the season but to not gain promotion almost feels worthless”. Cook continued by saying he was proud of his players after doing the double. He added that a motivation for next season is knowing that if they win the league, they will go straight up. Cook felt they lacked “that little bit extra” in front of goal and mentioned the 5/6 good chances and that “you have got to score goals and win games and they (Watford) managed to do that and we didn’t”. He finished by praising the Forest fans, saying they were “fantastic”.
Nottingham Forest (4-1-2-3): Batty, James, Harkin (c), Cook (Powell 89’), Daniels, Steggles, West, Anderson, Domingo (Mitchell 77’), Mosby (Reynolds 77’), Greengrass
Unused substitutes: Hewitt, Taylor
Watford (3-4-1-2): Goldsmid, Meiwald, Chandler (c), Pausch, Baptiste (Fyfe 64’), Mclean, Georgiou, Head, Wilson, Rossiter (Wallace 90’+2), Davison
Unused substitutes: Gibson, Ward, Brough