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This season's Premier League Cup Final was hosted by Chesterfield FC with an attendance of 466 on a chilly, windy day at the ProAct Stadium and with both teams making their first appearance in the final, a new name was guaranteed to appear on the trophy.
The two teams, both in with very realistic prospects of finishing as Northern Division Champions and then being potentially just 90 minutes away from the second tier (currently FAWSL 2 and next season re-branded as the Women's Championship) via a play-off, had met a fortnight ago in Lancashire and it was Leicester who won 2-1 with Sophie Domingo netting both.
Leicester made the brighter start and it was the lively Domingo who gave them the lead with an angled strike from the left of the area on 14 minutes.
Blackburn came more into the game and it was no surprise when they levelled just past the half hour mark. Captain Lynda Shepherd converted a penalty after Saffron Jordan was impeded by Charlotte Greengrass just inside the box. Leicester keeper Charlotte Clarke guessed correctly and dived to her right, but Shepherd's spot kick was well placed and just beyond her reach.
Leigh Dugmore should have restored the advantage, but pouncing on a back pass, she did the hard part by eluding Danielle Hill's efforts to redeem the situation for Blackburn, but then placed her shot wide of an open net when it seemed she must score.
Blackburn were denied an interval advantage when Shepherd netted from close range after Kelsey Pearson's dipping 30-yard strike was parried by Clarke. However, to Blackburn's chagrin, the goal was ruled out due to offside (though had Pearson scored direct, the goal would surely have counted).
Blackburn had the better of the second quarter and deserved to go into the break on level terms.
Dugmore headed wide from an excellent position early in the second half and after Blackburn had enjoyed a strong spell with a series of corners failing to yield a goal, Nat Johnson was unable to test Hill when Leicester had the opportunity to go ahead on the hour.
With the game just past the 70 minute mark, Blackburn won a series of corners and it was from one on the left by Jess Holbrook that Ellie Cook rose to head in at the near post, her header eluding Holly Morgan's efforts to keep the ball out.
Leicester brought on Brown and Crossman in a last throw of the dice, but Blackburn were not to be undone and Jordan, Blackburn's leading scorer this season, duly wrapped it up in stoppage time with a well hit shot on the turn from six yards. Jordan received the player of the game award.
The game was contested in a good spirit by both teams with just the one caution, Blackburn's Natasha Fenton for obstruction midway through the first half. There were several robust challenges which I felt might have warranted more than just the awarding of a free kick, but to their credit the players just got on with the game with no remonstrations. Certainly there have been similar challenges in other games which have seen a booking, but, on reflection, experienced referee Amy Fearn got things right on the day.
Blackburn Rovers: Danielle Hill, Chelsey Jukes, Alex Taylor, Lynda Shepherd, Kelsey Pearson, Jess Holbrook, Natasha Fenton, Saffron Jordan, Kayleigh McDonald, Ellie Cook, Kayleigh Cunliffe (sub Hannah Walsh 68mins). Subs not used: Amelia Size. Ria Montgomery, Sarah Agger.
Leicester City Women: Charlotte Clarke, Ria Acton (sub Paige Crossman 79mins), Sophie Domingo, Nat Johnson (sub Rachel Brown 79mins), Holly Morgan, Charlotte Greengrass, Hayley James, Paige Stewart, Rosie Axten, Leigh Dugmore, Nicole Nymoen (sub Ellie May 58mins). Subs not used: Mai Moncaster, Olivia Mitcham.
(Report and photo by Julian Barker)
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