There was late heartbreak for Rovers Ladies as Sheffield United Women scored a stoppage-time goal to take all three points at Bamber Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
Katie Wilkinson broke the deadlock before Aimee Hodgson’s equaliser, but Jade Pennock headed in late on to snatch a 2-1 victory on the final day of the FA Women’s Championship season.
Gemma Donnelly made four changes from the 3-2 defeat to London Bees, including a return for goalkeeper Alex Brooks.
Rovers were on the front foot early on and when Saffron Jordan went down under a challenge from Ocean Rolandsen, the referee pointed to the spot.
Elise Hughes stepped up, but Fran Kitching dived low to her right to save the spot-kick and deny Rovers a chance to take the lead inside the opening minute.
United then went down the other end and following some neat footwork from Wilkinson to move the ball onto right, clipped the top of the crossbar.
And the Blades would take the lead on 11 minutes when Wilkinson controlled the ball inside the area and fired it low beyond Brooks for her 19th goal of the season to clinch the league’s golden boot.
Rovers responded well and were positive in searching for the equaliser during the majority of the half, with Maria Edwards firing over the bar from distance.
Georgia Walters then went for goal from a free-kick all of 35 yards out and had Kitching scrambling as the ball flashed narrowly wide of the near post.
Edwards soon struck again and this time Kitching had to get down to hold on to her effort.
Walters also tried her luck from another free-kick positioned on the edge of the area but saw her strike blocked, before the follow up was easily saved by the visiting ‘keeper.
Back at the other end, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk flicked the ball in for a second, only for the offside flag to deny her and the Blades.
United started the second period brightly and almost capitalised on a defensive mix-up in the opening minute of the half, before Bex Rayner volleyed well wide.
The hosts also had opportunities to create chances in the final third, but when Natasha Fenton opted the pass the ball rather than shoot herself, it allowed Nat Johnson to get back to intercept.
Rovers would find the equaliser when Hughes and Fenton combined to great effect, with the latter finding Hodgson to smash the ball in off the underside of the bar, scoring her first senior goal in the process.
The Blades looked to find an immediate response when Maddy Cusack’s free-kick was headed wide by Nat Johnson.
Brooks then comfortably dealt with Rhema Lord-Mears’s shot from range, ahead of another dangerous Cusack free-kick which was clipped towards substitute Pennock, who headed just past the far post.
Naomi Hartley’s header also had to be stopped by Brooks from the latest Cusack corner, as the away side tried to keep the pressure on.
The Blues showed glimpses of quality in midfield and Hughes struck low and wide of the near post after a quick one-two with Fenton.
The Blades remained a threat on the counter, however, and Fenton had to race back to make a last-ditch sliding tackle and prevent the lively Pennock getting a shot away in the box.
Ellie Fletcher also had to slide in when Nat Johnson looked to play a defensive-splitting pass in the area, before Wilkinson’s shot was blocked.
The contest looked to be heading towards a stalemate until United claimed the winner in injury-time as Cusack’s corner was headed in by Pennock.
Next up, the Blues face Charlton Athletic in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup Fifth Round on Sunday 16 May.
ROVERS: Brooks; Fletcher, McDonald, Jukes, Newsham; Fenton, Hughes; Walters, Hodgson (Doyle 86), Edwards (Embley 62); Jordan (c).
Unused subs: Flaherty, Dean, Boydell, Coan, Montgomery.
Referee: Karl Buckley