The Women’s FA Cup offers a chance to dream for players and fans of smaller clubs. We are following the journey from the first round proper to the final at Wembley, continuing with photographer Fabio De Paola’s visit to Stoke for their third-round tie with Nottingham Forest
Last modified on Sat 29 Jan 2022 07.52 GMT
Following their convincing 4-0 victory over Wolves in the second round, Nottingham Forest faced fellow third-tier side Stoke City at Emerys Stadium in the next round. Though Stoke have historically had the upper hand, winning six of their 12 previous meetings, Forest triumphed 3-2 in their most recent Women’s National League – Northern Premier Division game in October 2020. With Stoke scoring five goals in each of their last two games and Forest scoring four in each of their last three, it was unlikely that the game would end goalless.
A women’s team representing Stoke City were formed in the summer of 2001 and they’ve been climbing the leagues ever since. They were promoted to the Women’s National League Northern Premier Division in 2013 after winning the Midland Women’s Combination league championship as well as the League Cup and County Cup. Their opponents, Nottingham Forest Women’s Football Club, were founded in 1990 and have been one of the most historic clubs in women’s football. Largely operated by volunteer administration and coaching staff, they has been able to capitalise on the local support in Nottinghamshire to maintain its status within competitive women’s football having had years of recognition and club honours spanning over almost three decades.
The Stoke technical director, Chloe Jones, talks to the team with the aid of the tactics board and writes out tactical instructions on the white board.
The Stoke captain, Meg Bowyer, has her ankle strapped by the physio, Tom Massey. Bowyer will be playing her first game back after breaking her ankle in September.
“Because of the busy schedule, we thought it would be a good initiative to waive the £3 entrance fee to get good momentum and atmosphere – Stoke media officer, Jordan Cleaver, pictured sending a tweet to advertise that admission to the game is free.
Stoke season ticket holders (above left-right) Will Martin, Jessie Doyle and Steven Allen enjoy a cup of tea and chat before the game. Friends and Forest fans Rebecca Hawkins and Jemma Page (below right) who follow nearly every game home and away. “My sister is the goalkeeping coach,” says Jemma.
Really happy to be let in for free. Will we win, who knows, but we’ll be happy with extra time though if needed – Forest fan Jemma Page
Stoke media intern and stadium announcer for the day, Matt Wiley, calls out the teams and the Stoke players warm up.
Some of the crowd of 71 who came along to the Emerys Stadium to watch the game (above left), the players and officials take to the pitch (above right), and then line up ahead of kick-off (below).
Forest went close early on when Rosie Axten headed straight at the goalkeeper (below) but the home side took control with early pressure and pressing the order of the day.
Stoke defender Beth Roberts playing out from defence (above left), Nottingham Forest’s Grace Walters takes a throw-in (above right), and holds off Stoke’s Beth Roberts (below).
The Nottingham Forest first team coach, Andy Cook (above left), and his Stoke counterpart, Louise Roberts. The Forest defence clear their lines (below).
Stoke took the lead midway in the first half through a Callan Barber penalty after Beth Roberts was bundled over in the box. Barber made no mistake sending Forest goalkeeper Emily Batty the wrong way.
The second half saw Nottingham Forest apply more pressure and equalise just before the hour mark when Rachel Brown glanced a header beyond the goalkeeper from a Becky Anderson corner. Both sides then went looking for a winner.
Stoke goalkeeper Lizzie Craven retrieves the ball (left), Stoke’s Rebecca Knight and Forest’s Charlotte Steggles battle for the ball.
Shortly after scoring the equaliser the Forest head coach, Andy Cook, made an attacking double substitution which paid dividends as Stoke couldn’t deal with the extra body up front, and in the 77th minute Becky Anderson’s lobbed effort put Forest ahead.
The visitors battled well to hold on to their lead and see out the win, booking their place in the fourth round.
A great first half, we dominated, were on the front foot and deservedly up 1-0 at half time. Both their goals started from our mistakes. Performance wise I thought we were dominant overall, I’m proud of the team, disappointed with the result but not with the performance – Chloe Jones, Stoke technical director.
Forest and Stoke players talk to relatives after the game (above), including Forest’s Charlotte Steggles who gets a congraulatory hug from mum Andrea (below left), and a Stoke fan shows off his haul of autographs.
We spoke at about half-time the things we needed to do to get back in the game and we did that, so credit to the girls. The intensity wasn’t there in the first half. A WSL team in the next round will be fantastic, we like to challenge ourselves so if we get Manchester United or Arsenal away that would be great – Forest first team coach, Andy Cook
Forest players and staff celebrate their 2-1 win with Charlotte Steggles leading the singing.
Forest’s players have much to celebrate. Their victory lands them a plum home tie against Women’s Super League heavyweights Manchester City in the fourth round on Saturday.