Rovers Ladies have avoided relegation from the Women’s Premier League, despite a 5-1 defeat at Stoke City.
Gemma Donnelly’s side would have been dragged into a final-day dogfight had Leeds and Newcastle both won, but the two teams suffered away defeats, which secured Rovers’ safety and condemned Leeds to the drop.
It was relief for Rovers, who were well beaten at the Britannia Stadium.
However, it could have been a very different story had the visitors tucked away a couple of early chances. Nicky Emery hit the side-netting when she should have scored, whilst Amanda Goodwin was unlucky to see her looped effort over the keeper just miss the target.
Rovers were made to pay, as Stoke striker Jamilla Palmer scored a five-minute hat-trick to put the Potters firmly in control with just 18 minutes on the clock.
Chantelle Gallagher then curled home a fantastic free-kick on 41 minutes to leave Rovers with a mountain to climb at the break.
To their credit, Rovers responded well after the interval, with Rio Hardy hammering home Emery’s right-wing cross less than four minutes after the restart.
But as Rovers pushed for more goals, they left themselves exposed at the back and Stoke substitute Jodie Foxhall scored a stoppage-time fifth to complete the rout.
Donnelly said: “The scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection of the game, but we can’t just play for 45 minutes and expect to come away with a result.
“It’s disappointing to see a great club like Leeds, with such huge history in the women’s game, to be relegated. Like us, they have tried to rebuild their squad and have relied on youth, but it’s just not worked for them this season.
“But from our perspective, we can breathe a sigh of relief and we have an opportunity now to go into the final game of the season against Preston with no pressure on us. We can enjoy our football and it provides another opportunity for some of our Centre of Excellence graduates to be involved.”
ROVERS: Hutcheson, Flemming, Seed (Pennington 46), S. Hardy, Bourne, Flynn, Goodwin, Walsh, Emery, R. Hardy (Doze 68), Manning (Yallop 80).
Subs not used: O’Donnell, Barratt, Godfrey, Kirby.