Derby County Ladies Football Club

Blackburn Rovers LFC v Derby County LFC

Derby County Ladies suffered a late 3-2 defeat to newly crowned League Champions Blackburn Rovers Ladies in the FA Premier League Northern Division.

Goals from Leanne De Silva and Melissa Johnson weren’t enough for the Ewe Rams despite matching the runaway league leaders for the majority of the game.

The crucial loss of stand-in defender and Director of Football Sam Griffiths with the final quarter of the game remaining was a bitter pill to swallow for Manager John Bennett, who not only lost his most experienced player, but also left the team with only two out-and-out defenders in the form of Molly Johnson and Megan Clarkson.

A flurry of injuries before the Christmas break looks ultimately to have cost the Ewe Rams a shot at promotion into the WSL, but the key loss of both Griffiths and Emily Jeffrey last week to what look like long-term injuries, could have deeper consequences.

The home team, unbeaten all season began the game brightly without testing young goalkeeper Charlotte Clarke sufficiently. As the first-half wore on, Derby began to grow into the game, with Melissa Johnson, causing problems for Blackburn, going close to giving the visitors the lead.

However, it was the home team that took the lead from a penalty after the referee deemed a Griffiths tackle to be worthy of a spot-kick, which was dispatched.

The Ewe Rams however were not about to lie down and were back on level terms before the break, when a Griffiths corner found the head of De Silva at the back post, who made no mistake to make it 1-1. Further chances came for the visitors from Nicole Dale, Natalie Reay and Melissa Johnson as Derby went into the break in the ascendancy.

Within moments of the re-start, the Ewe Rams were in front, when a mix-up from the Rovers central-defensive pair in the box allowed Melissa Johnson the space to pick her spot, as she cooly put the visitors ahead.

Both teams went in search of the crucial next goal and it was the home team that got back on level terms with a shot inside the 18-yard box, deceiving goalkeeper Clarke, a cruel blow for the young stopper, who had once again showed her impressive potential with a composed display.

The loss of the injured Griffiths at 2-2 after landing innocuously, delayed the game as she sought attention for what looks like a serious injury. With no other defenders available, striker Hannah Jones slotted into the back-line alongside Megan Clarkson, but with time running down on the clock, it was the home side that came out on top.

Valiant defending as a group, was the cause of the last 15 minutes of the game but on 83 minutes, a corner was delivered right into the six-yard box and after a bit of football ping-pong, the ball was stabbed home, giving Blackburn the victory, despite a scare from the Ewe Rams who had battled the newly crowned League Champions all the way and left manager Bennett with a feeling of what might have been.

Player of the Match – Lauren Cresswell