Holmes nets brace as Town battle to the end
Forest: Derrick Otim (2, 17); Morgan Ferrier (25)
Town: Duane Holmes (23, 86)
Town’s fantastic FA Youth Cup run came to an end at the City Ground this evening, but the Under-18s deserve tremendous credit for their unbelievable spirit against a powerful and talented Nottingham Forest.
The tie looked settled when the hosts went two goals up inside the opening 17 minutes and led by the same margin at the interval, but two goals from midfielder Duane Holmes – taking his seasonal tally at this level to an impressive 11 goals in just 15 starts – meant that the hosts were made to sweat it out in the closing moments.
With the likes of Chairman Dean Hoyle, Chief Executive Nigel Clibbens, Head of Football Operations Ross Wilson and Academy Manager Mark Lillis watching on, the numerous Town fans at the game could be proud of their side’s efforts as Town went out with their heads held high.
Professional Development coaches Frankie Bunn and Tony Carss named the same starting XI that had already progressed past Hartlepool and Stoke City in the competition, with Town in their usual 4-5-1 formation – with wingers George Conway and Jake Charles supporting Paul Mullin when the Terriers attacked.
Due to the poor weather over the last few weeks, Town’s youngsters hadn’t played a competitive game since the terrific Fourth Round win at Stoke City on 16 January and a slow start heralded a first Forest goal inside two minutes. Skipper Kedesh Goddard brought down left back Aristote Kamaneno and Forest quickly worked the ball right to striker Derrick Otim, who stepped inside onto his left foot and powered a low shot between ‘keeper Ed Wilczynski and his near post.
The hosts played the ball out from the back in a composed fashion, but also possessed great strength and pace in their front four. They had scored four in defeating Town at Canalside earlier in the season and you could see their goal threat throughout the half.
Town had just found their first foothold in the game when Forest’s second goal came in the 17th minute through Otim. His strike partner Morgan Ferrier rolled centre back Joe Wilkinson to face goal and when is 25 yard drive spat up off the pitch at Wilczynski, Otim pounced to convert a cool second goal of the evening.
Forest right winger Wilfried Gnahore showed great trickery and power two minutes later to cut infield in similar fashion to Otim’s opener, but he pulled his left footed shot wide of the near post.
Although Forest’s game-plan had to be admired, they did give Town a chance in midfield and several interceptions launched attacks that the Terriers couldn’t quite make the most of. Bunn and Carss were asking their team to press their opponents high up the pitch and that almost paid dividends midway through the half when Charles snatched possession and fired just wide of target, with his shot taking a deflection off centre back Gorman on route.
Town made the most of that corner in clever fashion to reduce the deficit. Conway used the short option of Danny Morton as a decoy and instead picked out top scorer Duane Holmes on the edge of the box, who steadied himself before firing through a crowded penalty area and to the ‘keeper’s left side.
That goal renewed hope for the sizeable Town contingent in the crowd, but that was subdued literally two minutes later with a third Forest goal. Midfielder Jack Blake picked up the ball on the Town left and crossed to the back post where tall striker Ferrier rose above Wilkinson and headed expertly inside the near post, leaving Wilczynski with no chance.
Left winger Thomas saw a near post snapshot saved well by Town’s custodian later in the half as Frankie Bunn switched Town to a 4-4-2 shape to try and plug the gaps on the big City Ground pitch and from the resulting corner the Terriers launched an excellent counter. Right back Thomas Briggs ran almost the full length of the pitch before sliding a pass right to Charles, but sadly his left footed curler from 20 yards was easy pickings for Durrant in the Forest goal.
The second half started off far slower than the first, with Town working the channels at every opportunity to gain territory up the pitch.
Town defender William Boyle expertly blocked a snapshot from a Forest man as the hour mark approached before opposite number Kieran Fenton didn’t make the most of a free header from the resulting corner, with Gnahore acrobatically volleying well wide.
Town created a superb chance in the 62nd minute that looked sure to give them a lifeline in the tie, but it wasn’t to be. A surging run from midfield from the ever-impressive Duane Holmes took Town into the penalty area and he swivelled before squaring to teammate Charles, but as he tried to sweep the ball home a defender blocked the attempt excellently and a follow-up from Mullin was also dealt with.
Direct runs from Jake Charles were causing Forest problems at this stage, winning Town free kicks in dangerous areas of the pitch. One such set-piece – a 64th minute corner – was kneed over the crossbar by Boyle.
Town were then denied a penalty when Mullin went down under a challenge from a defender, much to the chagrin of a vociferous Bunn on the touchline. You felt if Town were going to get back into the tie, they had to make this period of pressure count.
Instead Forest fought back, with impressive midfielder Blake at the core. His powerful run forward led to a shooting chance for substitute winger Mulraney with quarter of an hour to go. Thankfully for Town, he blazed wide of the near post.
Town pushed goalscorer Holmes further up the field with ten minutes to go to try and snatch a goal that would make the final stages interesting – and that very man netted a second of the game in the 86th minute to setup a very tense final few minutes. Substitute Ryan Cox – on for Mullin – did brilliantly to come away with the ball from a 50-50 challenge and pick out Holmes in the area with a beautiful curled pass to feet and the midfielder made no mistake, sliding the ball calmly beneath the goalie.
Sadly that final chance didn’t really come for the Terriers in the remaining minutes – and left back Starkey had to make an added time goal-line clearance as Town pushed men forward. With the last kick of the game a long free kick into the area fell at the feet of a Town player, but his miscued his attempted lob and the tie was lost.
Town’s team (4-5-1):
Ed Wilczynski; Mikey Starkey, William Boyle, Joe Wilkinson, Thomas Briggs; George Conway, Danny Morton (Ben Holmes 54), Duane Holmes, Kedesh Goddard (c), Jake Charles; Paul Mullin (Ryan Cox 73)
Sam Guthrie, Fraser Horsfall, Ben Atkinson
Forest booking: Jack Blake (35)