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Rochdale lifted the Lancashire County Cup following a surprise penalty shootout victory over Blackburn Rovers after the sides had battled out a 2-2 draw at Leyland.
Rochdale decided to play one up front and compact their midfield, combatting Blackburn's formidable line up. However within a minute of the start, Blackburn were awarded a penalty as goalkeeper Lauren Bracewell was judged to have brought down Blackburn's striker Katie Anderton and the striker picked herself up to fire home from the spot.
Dale could not have had a worst start and Blackburn now ran the show for the remainder of the half. After the break, Dale's first attack proved productive. Steph Bell hit a ball in midfield to Lizzie Paul, who shot at goal as the Blackburn keeper came out to challenge and the ball found itself out on the right wing where Lisa Wood fired home the equaliser.
Everyone in the Rochdale team lifted their game and as Blackburn began to look uncertain, Dale's Holly Newman, Steph Bell and Sarah Buffel fought like tigers but it was Blackburn who went back in front as a fantastic team move ended in Nicki Harding drilling home a first time shot from the edge of the area.
After a tactical switch which saw Sue Perry replace Lisa Wood, Dale began to fight back and a move started by Siobhan McElhinney found Sarah Buffel in the centre, where she slotted a pinpoint pass to left winger Rachael Wood, who waited Parker was committed before looping her shot over the Blackburn keeper to equalise.
Rochdale's fans lifted the roof and they took control, Lizzie Paul just firing wide. At the other end their defence of captain Claire Pearson, Jennie Cummins, Kim Hines and Siobhan McElhinney stood strong and as normal time came to an end, Blackburn knew that Dale still had their strong spirit in place.
In extra time, both sides gave everything it was end to end play and as the first half of extra time ended Dale's players were going down with cramp and Dale's physio seemed to be on the pitch as much as the players. Both sides went for the winner and as the final minute approached, Dale's brilliant young goalkeeper Lauren Bracewell made a double save to deny Blackburn and ensure that penalties were imminent.
Rochdale's first penalty, taken by Holly Newman, was saved by Krystal Parker but Bracewell stopped Rovers' first two efforts from Natalie Preston and Karen Burke. Rochdale then held their nerve as Sarah Buffel, Lizzie Paul, Kim Hines and Claire Pearson all found the net with their kicks to give the Northern Combination side their first ever County Cup success, and bring Blackburn's five-year domination of the competition to an end.
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