Blackburn Rovers Girls Centre of Excellence are one win away from national glory after defeating Everton 3-2 in the semi-finals of the National Under-17 Youth Cup.
Twins Rio and Steffi Hardy did the damage, scoring all three goals, as Rovers recorded a memorable win.
Playing at home for the first time in the competition, Rovers started the brighter of the two teams and played some excellent attacking football in the first half.
Rovers got their rewards on 21 minutes when good approach play by Katie Brannigan, Lorrie Doze and Chloe Adams led to a pass to Rio Hardy, who clinically dispatched a shot into the bottom corner.
Rovers registered 17 shots to Everton’s two in a dominant first-half display, but they were left to rue those missed chances as Everton equalised in the opening minute of the second half.
The goal prompted a period of scrappy play, with both teams showing plenty of passion and commitment. Rovers created the better openings, but again failed to test the Toffees keeper on several occasions.
Rovers eventually regained the lead when Doze’s inswinging free-kick was powerfully headed home by Steffi Hardy. The goal restored Rovers’ confidence and with nine minutes remaining Rio Hardy continued her rich vein of form in the competition with a crisp strike from 20 yards out.
Just as it looked like Rovers would see the game out comfortably, Everton pulled a goal back in the 86th minute through a long-range strike, which led to a nervy finale, but the hosts held firm to book their place in the final.
Rovers Under-17 head coach Matt Johnson said: “Despite all of the injuries and setbacks we have encountered this season, it’s great testimony to the squad that come the big games, the girls have raised their performances and deservedly made the final of the largest and best girls cup competition in the country.”
ROVERS: Lambe, S. Hardy, Seed (c), Godfrey, Mallett, Ratcliffe, Musker, Brannigan, Doze, Adams, R. Hardy, Yallop, Williamson, Chandarana, Walsh.