By Dom Smith, a member of The FA Young Reporters' Club. Dom’s blog englandfootball.org has attracted viewers from every continent and led to interviews with England players and BBC Sport Presenters. He will begin a degree in PPE after he completes his A-Levels.
Maidenhead United’s best ever run in the FA Youth Cup ended with defeat, as Nottingham Forest claimed a streetwise 5-1 win in the third round. They’ll go on to visit Clevedon Town or Manchester City next.
York Road was buzzing and, when I spoke to Maidenhead manager Christian Parker prior to kick-off, so was he. “We’re without a doubt the underdog. We’ll relish the fact that we are and hope to cause an upset,” he said.
I asked Parker about his side’s goal scoring form in the competition, where they're averaging more than five goals per game. “It's good to see that our lads are scoring goals and hopefully they’ll go out and continue our unbeaten run this season.”
When the match began, as Parker had suspected, the visitors let their quality show. Just minutes after Forrest midfielder Fin Back had headed over following a short corner, Forest took an early lead. This time from a standard corner into the box, forward Alex Mighten forced the bouncing ball into the net.
Tricky winger Keith Asare, a threat throughout, was only denied a superb curling goal by Maidenhead’s goalkeeper Fred Chapman as Forest pushed for a second. Eventually, they got it. Brennan Johnson’s direct free kick was saved, but not gathered, by Chapman. Fin Back made up for his earlier miss to steal in un-noticed and prod the ball over a floor-bound Chapman. Nottingham Forest had their cushion.
Maidenhead had been feeding off scraps up until the 35th minute. Lovely work on the left by Lewis Boniface left Brad Farren in an advanced position on the flank. Maidenhead United’s No9 turned his marker smartly, before firing narrowly high and wide. This rejuvenated United, who, five minutes later, earned a penalty for a shove in the box. Farren stepped up to convert calmly. At the break, the visitors led 2-1 at York Road.
When Act 2 began, it began slowly. The entertainment was provided by the stadium announcer, who forgot to turn his microphone off. This left the crowd in earshot of his trivial conversation.
When the next goal came, it added to Forest’s lead rather than giving United parity. Brennan Johnson was clipped in the box by an outstretched leg. A penalty was awarded, which Johnson dinked over Fred Chapman in true Panenka-style. Not five minutes later, Johnson was at it again – winning and scoring his second penalty in a matter of moments. Forrest’s superior levels of stamina were beginning to show.
A fifth goal in stoppage-time added further gloss to the scoreline for the Professional Development League outfit. Persistent play on the left flank by Alex Mighten provided the forward with space to cross. A tiring Maidenhead United backline were unable to get the ball fully clear. It landed at the feet of an unmarked Keith Asare. The winger, linked with a move to Borussia Dortmund last January, whipped a beautiful finish into the far post to round off a thoroughly impressive second-half by him and his teammates.
As referee Tom Ellsmore blew his whistle for the final time, he confirmed the end of the road for free-scoring Maidenhead. It ended Maidenhead United 1-5 Nottingham Forest on a nippy Tuesday night at York Road.