Chesterfield Ladies fall to narrow defeat in County Cup final

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Chesterfield Ladies were defeated 1-0 by Derby County Women U20 in the Derbyshire Women's County Cup final at The Impact Arena.

In a repeat of last season’s final, the Blues just couldn’t break down Derby’s resistance despite their best efforts in order to try and retain the trophy.

Poppy Hobson’s close-range effort following a corner-kick in the 70th minute proved to be the difference in a hard-fought game contested by two excellent sides.

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Both teams started the match brightly and set the tone for a very competitive cup final. An ambitious long-range effort from the Ewes flashed narrowly over the bar in the fifth minute while Imogen Fowler had Chesterfield’s first shot in the 11th minute when her shot from inside the penalty area was tipped around the post by Lola Smith.

The Chesterfield Ladies side just before the start of the matchThe Chesterfield Ladies side just before the start of the match
The Chesterfield Ladies side just before the start of the match

Chesterfield Ladies goalkeeper Nic Stokes made her first vital save of the night after 19 minutes played when she superbly blocked a Derby forward’s effort on target. Just a minute later, the Blues had their best opportunity of the first half.

Teenage striker Sophie Marshall fired a shot on target which looked to be dipping perfectly into the top corner before Smith pulled off an outstanding save to keep the game level at 0-0.

The young Ewes side were certainly the stronger side in the final 20 minutes of the first half with the Blues defence having to soak up a lot of pressure.

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Derby came very close to taking the lead in the 25th minute when Amy Cotton’s 15 yard effort flashed narrowly wide of the post while star striker Isabel Sheridan dragged an effort wide on the stroke of half-time when she should probably have hit the target.

With the match deadlocked at 0-0 at the interval, both sides knew the huge importance of scoring the first goal of the game. It would prove to be a second half decided on very fine margins.

The first major event of the game arrived just eight minutes after the restart. Ewes defender Lataya Bojang handled the ball on the goal line which prevented the Blues from taking the lead. The referee promptly awarded Chesterfield Ladies a penalty and showed Bojang a straight red card.

Blues captain Millie Standen stepped up to take the spot-kick but Lola Smith (who won the Player of the Match award) dived to her right and saved the penalty to keep the score level.

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Despite being down to ten players, Derby continued to impress and pose questions of the Blues defence. Their persistence was rewarded in the 70th minute when Hobson got on the end of an excellent corner-kick to steer the ball past Nic Stokes and into the bottom corner to give the young Ewes side the lead with 20 minutes remaining.

The remainder of the match was a very open affair with the Blues throwing everything they could at the Derby defence in search of a vital equaliser while the Ewes continued to pose threats on the counter-attack.

Derby almost killed the game off in the 82nd minute after winning a free-kick in a central position just outside the edge of the penalty area. The set-piece was fired on target but Stokes produced an excellent save to tip the ball over the bar.

The cup final would go on to end in hugely dramatic fashion. With only around 90 seconds remaining of stoppage time, Chesterfield Ladies won a free-kick in a very dangerous area from 20 yards out. With the crowd on their feet for the final chance of the match, Blues top goal scorer Imogen Fowler struck her free-kick on target which was saved by Smith.

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However, Smith fumbled the ball and couldn’t keep hold of it with the ball just inches away from the goal line. An almighty goalmouth scramble ensued with several Blues players involved desperate to get the vital touch to grab a last-gasp equaliser.

With a whole host of players inside the six yard area, there followed very strong appeals from Chesterfield Ladies players that the ball had found its way over the line in amongst the chaos. However, the referee and her assistant on the touch line disagreed and no goal was given.

The final whistle was blown just a few seconds afterwards to mark a heart-breaking end to the cup final for Chesterfield Ladies after coming desperately close to forcing a penalty shoot-out.

While the defeat will understandably hurt, this has still been an excellent season for Chesterfield Ladies and one to be proud of after finishing second in the league and reaching a cup final.

Chesterfield: Stokes, Bailey, Naylor, Warren (Hopkinson 88), Abercrombie, Connell (Darley 72), Falleth, Standen (c), Davidson (Fidler 46), Fowler, Marshall.

Attendance: 334

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