Barnet beat Nottingham Forest to win Premier League Cup
Barnet celebrate a welcome respite from their Premier League relegation fight
By Jen O'Neill
Barnet won a penalty shoot-out 4-3 at Adams Park to lift the Women's Premier League Cup on Thursday despite being down to 10 players for almost an hour.
Stacey Sowden was sent off in the 67th minute for kicking at Carla Tomkins but her side kept out Nottingham Forest and the final ended 0-0 after extra time.
With both sides playing in their first final, a new name is now on the trophy.
Barnet manager Tracey Kevins said: "The players are not surprised to win, it's just how they've done it.
"Going down to 10 players and then through extra time and on penalties, I knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but I also knew my players were fitter.
"'Barnet Running Club' the players call themselves because of the training we do. I knew it would go to penalties, and so we had studied and prepared for it. Preparation is the key."
I went down to the park yesterday - it must have looked a bit sad, a 26-year-old with a flat ball - and practised taking about 50 penalties. I felt confident, so I was happy to volunteer to take the last one
It was the first time since 2003 that the trophy had been decided on penalties and Sally Wade, scorer of the winning penalty, revealed that she had spent some time practising having missing a spot kick in training on Monday.
"It was at Under-15 level the last time I won a trophy, so it was an unbelievable feeling [to score the deciding penalty]," she said.
"I went down to the park yesterday - it must have looked a bit sad, a 26-year-old with a flat ball - and practised taking about 50 penalties. I felt confident, so I was happy to volunteer to take the last one."
Forest manager Danny Johnson said: "Each coach has different ideas and I don't think you can replicate the pressure of a penalty shoot-out.
"We moved the ball better in the second half, we just didn't make the chances we wanted and it wasn't meant to be.
"We can't dwell, we're second in the league and until we're mathematically out of the running for the title. We'll keep trying for that."
Barnet had made the brighter start but failed to turn their domination into goals.
No Bees' player was more frustrated than striker Sowden and she let it get the better of her after passing up several chances to score her 200th goal for the club.
If it was an occasionally scrappy game, it certainly was not short of goalmouth action.
A minute either side of half-time, each team had golden opportunities to break the deadlock.
First, Forest's right-sided midfielder Andi Bell showed her pace to burst into the box and find Natalie Clarke from the byeline.
But Clarke's low side-footed effort from eight yards - probably the best chance of the game - was saved superbly by Barnet goalkeeper Cherie Rowlands with an outstretched foot.
Kelly Smith's tips and tricks
Then, at the start of the second half, Barnet's captain Danielle Murphy struck a low free-kick which Forest keeper Claire Wallhead saved down to her right.
The rebound fell to Sowden, but she miscued with her weaker left foot and her shot rolled past the post.
In the 52nd minute Forest midfielder Rachael Murray's 35-yard effort hit the underside of the bar and then the back of goalkeeper Cherie Rowlands on the up-bounce before spinning to safety.
Forest looked stronger as the game progressed but despite a stream of corners and high balls into the box, they could not find the vital final touch.
And so, after a goalless extra time, it fell to Barnet goalkeeper Rowlands to show that the effort spent studying notes on players' penalty preferences and run-ups was not time wasted.
She proved her worth with two good stops from Clarke and from Catherine Lawson, while Murphy hit her spot kick over the bar before Wade netted the winner to spark the Bees' celebrations.
"This is the club's day in the sunshine," said Kevins. "It is a huge boost for the whole club as a whole, both men's and women's, and a huge thank you for the great support they give us."
The Premier League's bottom club will continue their pursuit of silverware when they take on West Ham United in the FA Women's Cup quarter-finals on Sunday and will hope to transfer their cup form to the battle against relegation.
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