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Ladies

The season so far

A look back at how Rovers Ladies have fared in the first half of the 2020-21 season…

29 December 2020

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September saw the Blues enter their second successive FA Women’s Championship campaign, following a seventh-place finish in the shortened 2019-20 season.

During the summer, Gemma Donnelly recruited a host of young talents, such as Issy Dean and Emma Doyle from Everton, Liverpool’s Meg Boydell, Emma Bradley from Manchester City and Manchester United’s Charlotte Newsham.

United’s Fran Bentley became Rovers’ new No.1, while winger Maria Edwards would also make the move from the Manchester club, joining on loan until the end of the season, as did 19-year-old Everton forward Elise Hughes.

Regional Talent Club graduate Aimee Hodgson made the step up from the Development Team, while fellow wide midfielder Leah Embley was signed from National League side Fylde.

Another RTC graduate, Ali Johnson, was signed from Sheffield United in early November, starting a second stint in blue and white for the versatile defender.

Experienced centre-back Jade Richards, fresh from captaining Aston Villa to the Championship title, also came on board ahead of the new season, as did a familiar face in Alex Brooks, back for a second spell between the sticks after leaving Birmingham City.

Meanwhile, Rovers said goodbye to loanee goalkeeper Fran Stenson, who returned to Arsenal, and midfielder Missy Bo Kearns, who headed back to Liverpool.

Defender Serena Fletcher left the Club to join Huddersfield, while last season’s top scorer Natasha Flint opted to move to league rivals Leicester City.

And it was the newly professional Foxes who Rovers came up against first, with Flint scoring twice against her former Club in a 3-0 win for the home side, in what was the first game played behind closed doors.

There were six debutants in the side at Farley Way Stadium and the team started to gel together when Charlton Athletic arrived at Bamber Bridge for the first home game of the season.

However, the Addicks went away with all three points, snatching a late winner in injury time to leave Rovers without anything to show for their efforts.

It was on matchday three and a trip to Crystal Palace that kickstarted the season. Despite twice trailing in the match, goals either side of half-time from centre-backs Richards and Ellie Stewart got Rovers back on level terms.

And in the 94th minute, Natasha Fenton curled an audacious effort into the top corner to spark jubilant celebrations from the away side and secure a first win of the season in the most dramatic of fashions.

Then came the visit of Birmingham and a chance to test themselves against top flight opposition.

After holding Carla Ward’s outfit for the majority of the Continental Tyres League Cup tie, a late winner condemned Rovers to an undeserved home defeat.

And the Blues exited the Conti Cup after a 5-2 loss to Leicester, despite Hughes’ stunner and a neatly-worked team goal finished off by Newsham getting the visitors back on level terms.

Back to league action and again Rovers were on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline, coming up short against Lewes at The Dripping Pan.

Gemma Donnelly wanted to see a reaction from her side following that result, and that’s exactly what she got.

A home win over London City Lionesses, courtesy of Georgia Walters’ first goal for the Club, finished off October in style and started a run of six league games unbeaten.

London Bees were next to be put to the sword by a rejuvenated Rovers, who recorded their biggest-ever Championship win thanks to a double from Hughes and Saffron Jordan’s well taken first goal of the season on her 100th appearance for the Club.

Newly-relegated Liverpool visited Bamber Bridge looking to continue their promotion push but found Brooks in inspired form, helping the Blues hold their full-time opponents to a goalless draw.

Hughes was on the scoresheet for the fourth time in four games at Coventry United, empatically converting a spot-kick to keep the good form going in the Midlands.

Following seven points from nine and three clean sheets in November, Donnelly picked up the LMA Manager of the Month award, while Brooks was named the Championship Player of the Month.

Into December and Fenton, who had reached a century of Rovers games a month earlier, was named the Club’s new vice-captain, while on the pitch, league leaders, Durham, posed another tough test.

But it was one Rovers passed, taking another point back to Lancashire after a hard-fought stalemate at Maiden Castle.

Remarkably, it also saw the Blues record a sixth consecutive league clean sheet, with Brooks continuing her record of not conceding a league goal across her two spells at the Club.

Donnelly’s in-form team made a remarkable start to their trip to Sheffield United as Edwards netted inside 21 seconds to score for the first time since her loan move, while Jordan bravely sent the visitors into a two-goal lead.

After United hit back, Richards re-established a two-goal cushion by heading in Fenton’s free-kick, but the Blades came back again to level the scores at 3-3.

That away draw rounded off the first half of fixtures with Rovers sitting in fifth position – their highest spot since promotion to the second tier.

And finally, for the third time in 2019-20, Leicester were the opponents to finish the year. The Foxes took home the points after a 3-2 win, despite two goals from Walters, including a 40-yard lob from the Wales forward.

Rovers will resume their campaign away at Charlton Athletic on Sunday 10 January (2pm), looking to build on a haul of 15 points from the opening 11 fixtures.


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