Derby County Ladies Football Club

Battling Ewes Fall to Newly Crowned Champions

Match Report by Derby University Football Journalism Student Jake Dance

Derby County Ladies applauded Blackburn Rovers Ladies with a guard of honour after a 3-0 loss to the side saw the Blue and Whites clinch the FA Women’s National League Northern Division title.

Rovers achieved their third consecutive league title on Saturday as goals from Saffron Jordan, Sophie Charlton and Jess Holbrook ensured victory at Bamber Bridge Football Club. Derby created chances throughout the match, but their opponent’s cutting edge shone through as they finished clinically.

The Ewe Rams looked on par with the league leaders for the majority of the first half, conceding an unfortunate goal early on. Blackburn grew back into the second half however, and managed to build momentum and increase their lead.

Derby displayed the quality required to stop Rovers early on as Jordan burst through with seemingly just the keeper to beat. Just as the striker was about to pounce, Grace Harrison slid with precision to snatch the ball back and nullify the danger.

Despite this promising start, the home side took the lead just two minutes later. Natasha Fenton blasted the ball towards the top left corner, but Leah Kellogg somehow managed to leap to it. The resulting save looped into the air and Jordan was the quickest to react, sprinting in and hammering the ball into the back of the net.

The away side looked to reply instantly as Andi Bell used her rapid acceleration to fight past Kayleigh McDonald. The number 9 lashed her shot early, calling upon a wonder-save from Danielle Gibbons as she sprung backwards to tip it over the bar.

Bell was involved yet again with her side’s next opportunity to strike. Hannah Ward sent in a low, driven corner toward the near post. The Derby striker ran to meet the ball and attempted a flick with a flourish, but the shot was immediately redirected via a Blackburn deflection.

Charlton had a glaring opportunity to improve the Blue and Whites’ lead 35 minutes in. The number 16 has the ball sent across her right in front of goal, but her attempted shot saw the ball spinning off her foot and out for a goal kick.

It was then Jordan’s chance to extend the lead shortly after. The Rovers striker attempted an audacious chip with Kellogg rushing out to meet it. The ball arced perfectly, but bounced the wrong side of the post.

The Blackburn number nine continued to torment the Derby defence throughout the first half, and burst through once more as it was coming to a close. The Ewe Rams shot-stopper was out even quicker this time and performed a tremendous reflex save with her outstretched leg to deny her opponents once more.

It didn’t take too long for the home side to extend their lead into the second half. Fenton broke through on goal after more superb involvement from Jordan, this time in the form of an improvised pass. Camilla Newton did well initially to snatch the ball off the Rovers midfielder, but it dribbled to the feet of Charlton. Finding herself in plenty of space, she had time to pick her spot and finish well.

Derby pushed to get a goal back with some good breakaways, but the final ball just wasn’t quite there and the side struggled to generate as many chances as they had crafted in the previous half.

Blackburn players Lynda Shephard and Lagan Makin had identical chances as their victory came ever closer. On both occasions, a ball was played in deep from the right side and the player attempted an outstretched, acrobatic finish. The shot also went just wide of the post in the two instances.

Holbrook hammered the final nail in the coffin on 89 minutes. The midfielder gathered the ball in the Derby penalty area, turned tightly and slotted calmly under kellogg in a manner that befitted the soon-to-be champions.

The Ewe Rams have just four games left to play in the league this season, but this spirited display will keep hopes alive for their highest ever finish.

Derby County Ladies host Middlesborough Women this Sunday at Mickleover Sports Football Club.