Rovers Ladies were defeated 3-0 by Leicester City Women in the opening game of the 2020-21 FA Women’s Championship season at Farley Way Stadium.
A goal from Charlie Devlin and Natasha Flint’s second-half brace handed the Foxes a winning start, but it was a valiant effort from Rovers, who were reduced to 10 players shortly after the break.
Gemma Donnelly handed out six debuts to goalkeeper Fran Bentley, defenders Charlotte Newsham and Issy Dean and midfielders Emma Doyle and Meg Boydell, as well as RTC graduate Aimee Hodgson, while Leah Embley also made her first appearance off the bench.
Rovers more than held their own in the frantic opening stages and after City created the first opportunity when Devlin’s corner was flicked over by Tierney, Ellie Stewart rose highest to head Emma Doyle corner narrowly over the bar.
City then took the lead on 18 minutes. Devlin got in behind the Rovers defence and slotted the ball under Bentley, after being played through by Sam Tierney.
Following the drinks break Leicester started to create more and Devlin could have had a second, striking over the bar from outside the area.
Bailey-Gayle then cut inside onto her right foot but shot past the near post, while Farrow tried to place her effort but couldn’t find the target after finding space on the edge of the area.
At the other end, Saffron Jordan’s strike appeared to hit the arm of Sophie Howard in the City box, but the referee waved away Rovers’ penalty claims.
In a fast paced end to the opening period, Flint saw an effort scrambled away before blazing a shot over the top from close range.
The home side created chances soon after the break as Bentley held on to Farrow’s strike and Flint took aim from the edge of the area, curling her shot past the far post.
Rovers’ job became tougher when Jordan was sent off for a second bookable offence and Leicester capitalised on 70 minutes. Flint scored against her former side with a powerful strike finding the back of the net.
The Blues continued to battle hard and Ellie Fletcher’s break away brought a corner and a chance to push players forward. Kirstie Levell was forced to palm the corner away, before another set piece from Ellie Stewart was saved.
Natasha Fenton, who took the captain's armband after Jordan's dismissal, then created space for a shot, only to see her on-target effort deflected wide.
But just as the visitors had started to get on top, ex-Rovers forward Flint added her second, wrapping up three points for the home side 10 minutes from time via a first-time strike.
Next up for Rovers is a home game against Charlton Athletic on Sunday 13 September at Sir Tom Finney Stadium, Bamber Bridge (1pm).
ROVERS: Bentley (GK), Fletcher, Stewart, Dean, Newsham, Fenton, Doyle, Boydell (Dykes 78’), Hodgson (Thomas 83') (Embley 86'), Jordan (C) (s/o 56’), Walters (Richards 63’).
Unused subs: Brooks (GK), Bradley (GK).
Goals: Devlin 18’, Flint 70’ 82’
Referee: Christina Hattersley