Rovers Ladies ended their Premier League Northern Division season in ninth place following a narrow 1-0 defeat away to Preston in their final fixture.
A wonder goal from Alice Forshaw was the difference between the two teams in a close encounter at the UCLan Sports Arena.
Rovers registered the first chance of the game on five minutes and were unfortunate not to take the lead. Following a foul on Amie Fleming, Steph Hardy’s long-range free-kick bounced back off the bar and twin sister Rio Hardy was unable to force home the follow-up.
However, Preston opened the scoring just two minutes later when the ball broke to Forshaw just outside the box and her superb first-time strike flew into the top corner, off the inside of the post.
Rovers responded well, with Rio Hardy twice off target with efforts from the edge of the area, whilst in between, the visitors were given a let-off when Helen Seed gave away possession in a dangerous position and Katie Anderton slipped in Keeleigh Savage, who rounded the keeper, before pulling the ball back to Mel Ball, who ballooned over the bar.
Preston’s Gemma Watson forced a smart save from Naveen Kirby at the start of the second half, but from then on, it was Rovers who created the better chances.
On 71 minutes, skipper Sophie Flynn’s 25-yard strike went just past the post and moments later, the ball broke kindly to Rio Hardy, whose shot deflected wide off a defender.
Rovers should have levelled on 76 minutes when Steph Hardy played a sensational diagonal ball over the top to Evie Manning, who took a touch before firing agonisingly wide of the far post. Kiera Walsh’s stunning 30-yard volley then stung the palms of the Preston keeper moments later.
Preston ought to have wrapped up the win on 84 minutes when a ball into the box was fumbled by Kirby, but Emily Hutton volleyed over the unguarded goal.
The Rovers keeper was injured in the process, leading to 10 minutes of added time, but Rio Hardy saw a shot saved, before Walsh wasted a free-kick with virtually the last kick of the game.
Interim manager Gemma Donnelly said: “Albeit it was another loss, I was really proud of the girls’ performance, particularly second half.
“I felt that it was a fairly even first half, which could have gone either way. In the second half, we were much stronger, we dominated possession throughout, but we were ineffective in the final third, which has been the story of our season.
“We are disappointed with the result, because we deserved at least a draw, but Preston are second in the league and in the two games that myself and AJ have taken charge against them, we have been unfortunate to lose by just a single goal in both.”
ROVERS: Kirby, Barratt (Doze 46), Seed (Godfrey 67), S. Hardy, Pennington, Emery (Yallop 58), Flynn, Fleming, Walsh, Manning, R. Hardy.
Subs not used: Bourne.