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Barnet 0 Blackburn Rovers 0
The final match of the National Division season saw Barnet complete a campaign marked by Cup heroics with a happy ending in the league.
Needing to avoid defeat against Blackburn Rovers to retain their National League status, a 0-0 draw achieved that aim and cruelly ended Rovers' five-year stay at National level on a goal difference deficit of one goal from Watford. Blackburn fought hard to the end but could not find the goal which would have saved them.
A hard pitch and a strong easterly breeze down the pitch made fluent football difficult but both teams created enough chances to have won the day. Barnet were the first to threaten, Krystal Parker doing well to turn a 30-yard lob over the bar in the second minute. Rovers responded strongly to dominate possession without being able to open up the experienced Bees back line.
Vicky Boardman nearly settled Barnet nerves with a fine header on 21 minutes which rebounded from the bar but she sent a follow up effort straight into Parker's hands. Blackburn were still dominating territorially with Danielle Sheen looking lively up front and were denied an opener on 33 minutes when an offside flag ruled out a close range effort after Cherie Rowlands had dropped a cross.
Barnet again nearly took the lead when Amy McCann glanced a Danielle Murphy corner inches wide. Murphy went close herself from distance as Barnet finished the half well.
Barnet raised their game after the break and were able to pen Rovers back for long periods but could not fashion a breakthrough. The Bees forced numerous corners and dangerous situations but
Rovers' defence and keeper played very calmly whilst Barnet struggled to deliver the final ball.
Knowing that a single goal would very likely prove crucial to their future as the minutes ticked by, both teams gave their all Boardman had a 20-yard shot on the turn held by Parker. McCann went close with another header and Parker did well to hold a Murphy free kick under pressure.
Both teams sent on fresh legs to try to force the issue: Rovers' Mel Heatherington set up Sheen for a great chance on 81 minutes but the shot was saved on the line by Rowlands whilst Barnet's Holly Sandow got in behind the defence and sent an effort against the bar and away on 88 minutes. Rovers broke clear in the third minute of added time and a good move saw Levi Penny get a powerful shot on target, but Rowlands pushed the goalbound effort away to her right.
The scenario of two teams being relegated from an eight team National League put all except champions Sunderland at the mercy of dips in form or loss of players to other clubs. The use of Super League players on loan added another variable into the mix, with some clubs using them more than others. The relegation battle went down to the final whistle of an exciting League season with Blackburn Rovers the unlucky victims, whilst Barnet can prepare for a second season in an enlarged National Division.
Barnet: Cherie Rowlands, Jade Dempster, Sally Wade, Abbie Prosser, Leanne Reidy, Gemma Rudman, Emma Davies, Danielle Murphy, Amy McCann, Jess Trimnell, Vicky Boardman. Subs: Holly Sandow, Zoe Lance, Alex Keown, Sue Kumaning, Danielle Scanlon.
Blackburn Rovers: Krystal Parker, Emma Johnson, Vanessa Leat, Rhiannon Roberts, Danielle Cox, Hannah Forster, Denise Campbell, Kim Turner, Danielle Sheen, Amanda Goodwin, Levi Penny. Subs: Katy Morris, Jasmine Elliott, Lizzie Ince, Charlotte Heyes, Mel Hetherington.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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