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Toone to the rescue

7 March 2016

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Substitute Ella Toone scored twice as Rovers Ladies came from behind to beat Derby County 3-1, to keep pace with the teams at the top of the table.

Ainsley Strickland also got on the scoresheet for Gemma Donnelly’s side, who are now level on points with second-place Stoke and have three games in hand on league leaders Preston.

Rovers made a sluggish start and were punished on 16 minutes when a ball over the top sent the Derby striker in the clear and she fired past Danielle Hill to give the visitors the lead.

The hosts were then dealt another blow when Sophie Jones was forced off the field through injury, but her replacement made an immediate impact, as Rovers levelled just before the half-hour mark.

Saffron Jordan was released down the right before squaring the ball across the box, Strickland saw her shot saved, but substitute Toone reacted quickest to prod home.

Strickland came close to firing Rovers in front, but her curling effort from the edge of the area went narrowly over, before Toone forced the Derby keeper into a full-length save moments later.

Hill then made a smart save low to her left, before Strickland fired wide from close range with the goal at her mercy on the stroke of half-time.

Rovers remained on top at the start of the second half, with a Jess Holbrook corner headed against the bar just a minute after the restart, before Strickland got the goal her display deserved, firing home from 14 yards out to give Rovers the lead.

Hill made another smart save low to her left on 53 minutes, before Rovers regained the ascendancy. Jordan rattled the bar from the edge of the area with a crisp strike, before Amie Fleming fired wide from a tight angle.

On 80 minutes, another Holbrook corner found Lynda Shepherd, whose header was saved on the line, but just a minute later, Rovers added a third. Shepherd played in Toone, who took a touch, before rifling the ball home off the underside of the bar.

Derby were awarded a penalty in the closing stages after Natasha Fenton was harshly adjudged to have committed a foul in the box, but Hill saved the spot-kick to ensure there would be no nervy finale.

Donnelly said: “It was not the start we wanted, going a goal behind, however it kick-started us into action. The good thing is, we got the result that we wanted. The disappointing thing is, we played poorly and that wasn’t down to the opposition.

“Nevertheless, the win keeps us up there with the leading pack and I think it’s the sign of a good team that you can have an off day and still get a good result. It’s important that we have a really good week of training ahead of the Brighton game at the weekend, based on that performance.

“We’ve got such a gifted group of individuals, that I know they have the potential to outshine any team in this division, we just need to be more consistent.

“Finally, although it was disappointing to lose Sophie Jones to injury, it provided an opportunity for Ella Toone to get on. From that point on, I thought her and Ainsley Strickland caused Derby problems, they created a number of chances and we looked like we were going to score.”

ROVERS: Hill, Pearson (Taylor 46), Bickett, Kinvig, Cook, Holbrook, Shepherd, Jones (Toone 21), Fleming, Jordan, Strickland (Fenton 65).

Subs not used: Flynn.

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