Rovers Ladies booked their place in a 12th successive Lancashire FA Womens Challenge Cup final following a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Preston North End in their rearranged semi-final.
The LFA had ordered the tie to be replayed after both two teams were found to have fielded an ineligible player in the original fixture.
That night, Gemma Donnelly’s side secured a 3-2 victory on penalties after the game had ended goalless and, remarkably, Rovers replicated the result!
In the first-half, goalkeeper Gemma Jackson produced a superb save to deny Preston’s Jade Parker, who was through one-on-one.
Rovers responded well, with Vicky Westerman forcing a smart stop from the Preston keeper, before Sophie Jones glanced a header just wide from a free-kick.
Amie Fleming then blazed over the bar from Danielle Sheen’s pull-back, before Jess Holbrook’s 30-yard free-kick had to be turned around the post.
After the interval, Sophie Flynn delivered a couple of dangerous crosses, which evaded everyone in the centre, whilst Jackson was forced into another fine save, palming Chelsea Flanagan’s free-kick around the post.
Once again, penalties would decide the winner. Preston’s first went in off the bar, before Nicky Twohig levelled for Rovers. Both sides then missed their next two, as Jackson made successive saves, whilst Fleming and Flynn both skied their spot-kicks over the bar.
Flanagan followed suit, clipping the crossbar, before Holbrook gave Rovers the lead. Holly Rawcliffe converted Preston’s final penalty, to put pressure back on the hosts, but Lynda Shepherd held her nerve to fire Rovers into a 12th successive final, where they will meet Morecambe on March 30th.
Delighted manager Gemma Donnelly said: “It was a very evenly-matched game, with few clear-cut chances in open play. The pitch made it difficult for both teams in the first-half, but we adapted well after the break, playing more down the flanks.
“There was a lot of hype around this fixture after Preston’s manager wrongly quoted me as saying that they should have been the team to progress after the last time we played.
“Sometimes in football, it is better to be gracious in defeat. Given that we have beaten Preston four times out of four this season, without conceding a goal, I think it’s fair to say that we are the better team.
“At the end of the first semi-final, I told their manager that it was a closely-contested game and that they were a well-drilled and organised team. I did not say that they were the better team or that they deserved to go through.
“I am delighted for the girls to get into a 12th consecutive final. It shows consistency in our performances. We were disappointed to lose in the final last season, so this year it is our intention to gain that crown back.
“A special mention must go to Gemma Jackson, who was the star of the show, saving two penalties, and to Alex Taylor, who deputised for the injured Millie Chandarana at centre-half and did an excellent job.”
ROVERS: Jackson, Westerman, A. Taylor, Twohig, Bourne, Shepherd, Flynn, Jones (Shaw), Holbrook, Fleming, Sheen.
Subs not used: Hutchinson.
Rovers are back in league action this Sunday (March 1st), at home to Nottingham Forest. A decision will be made on Saturday tea-time as to whether the game will go ahead at AFC Darwen (kick-off 2pm) or whether it will be moved to JMO Sports Park in Skelmersdale (kick-off 12.15pm).