Derby County Women Under 20s secured an eighth straight FAWNL Reserve Midland Division win and a fifth straight clean sheet at Moor Farm as they defeated Doncaster Rovers Belles 8-0 in a fine display against the South Yorkshire outfit.
Dan Dobrzycki's side put up an improved performance against Rovers than the previous week with some returning and new faces freshening up the squad.
Doncaster put up some early pressure and almost opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Jess Woods dispossessed Lola Smith in the Derby net only to have her efforts saved twice before incoming forward Olivia Darley took aim but her resulting shot could only cannon off the crossbar for the score to remain 0-0.
Derby's best chance of the opening ten minutes would fall to Iesha Rollins in the box after a Holly Otter corner to the edge of the area sweetly met the right boot of Rollins, but her effort just glanced wide of the far post.
A fantastic ball from Sarah Newton would allow the Ewe Rams to open the scoring though when her cross from deep found Ruby Barnes on the left who only had to toe-poke it into the back of the net to put the hosts one to the good in the 17th minute and collect her 5th goal of the season in all competitions.
Shortly afterwards the floodgates opened as a Charlie Duthie-Thompson cross found an unmarked Rollins for the number ten to calmly put away the finish and double the lead for the Ewe Rams.
Otter's corners continued to wreak havoc in the Belles box as a third goal came Derby's way by means of an own goal, Rollins missing the original ball across the face of the goal only for it to deflect off a Doncaster body and roll into the back of the net.
The Belles weren't perturbed by being 3-0 down however, continuing to attack Smith's goal, Darley latching onto another long-ball from defence, but her effort could only narrowly go over the bar for a goal-kick.
A fourth would arrive in the 38th minute though, another lovely cross from the wings found the cunning run of Rollins who slotted home the most relaxed finish of the season to earn her brace.
Barnes and Newton would combine again for the former to get her second of the game when another inviting cross from the by-line to the left-winger rippled the back of the net for 5-0.
The goals continued thick and fast in the first half when Duthie-Thompson was brought down in the box for a penalty which allowed set-piece specialist Otter to make it 6-0 from 12 yards going into the second half.
Duthie-Thompson almost got a goal to go along with her top-notch performance in the 56th minute when she latched onto a misplaced defensive header to run through on goal. Still, her attempt to put the ball into the bottom corner could only agonisingly rebound off the woodwork.
Eleanor Humphrey returned to the side for the first time since December, coming on for Barnes at half-time and she played as she'd never left, making a nuisance of herself on the right-hand side and almost put a header into the top-right corner from a Newton cross with Humphrey leaping like a salmon to reach the ball.
The New Zealander continued to make a nuisance of herself on the right-hand side putting in a number of low-driven crosses to test Paige Johnson between the sticks' ability to collect the ball.
The seventh goal for the Ewe Rams would be Rollins' hattrick as she picked up on a cutting through-ball from midfield and put the ball away to make sure Derby wouldn't reach full-time with a goalless second half.
An eighth for Derby capped off a fine team display with Rollins adding to her tally with a fine finish on the penalty spot after Otter whipped in a corner to find the unmarked attacker who turned and powered the ball past the goalkeeper.
The Under 20s next game finds them in a top-of-the-table clash at home against local rivals Nottingham Forest on Sunday 26th February in a 2pm kick-off.
Report by Riley Somerville
Manager Dobrzycki was delighted to see his side record an eighth straight win in the league and complete the double over Doncaster having come on top in the reverse fixture last weekend.
Dobrzycki was particularly pleased with the first half, which saw Derby race into a six-goal lead by half-time with the game over as a contest early on.
“They did well and credit to Doncaster because, as we saw last week, they’re a well-coached organised side and they put a lot of good work in and have got some good players,” he said.
“Out of the six goals in the first half, there was probably four which were real quality moments, so I think we have to give ourselves credit for that. I don't think it was a case of lax defending or missing loads of chances, I think we were quite clinical actually.
“It was a fair score and they were well earned goals but I was actually really pleased with the first half performance in particular.”
The young Ewes have now recorded five straight clean sheets in the FAWNL Reserve Midland League and, barring a brief lapse in concentration, Dobrzycki was happy with the way his side defended.
He said: “I think we were sloppy at the start and we gave a chance away, Lola [Smith] got ourselves out of trouble really well, she's brilliant in one-on-one situations like that. Just the defence taking a bit of ownership to not give her the ball in that situation is probably my only criticism.
“Whoever goes in there, it's a really good defence. We've got Alex [Harding] coming back next week potentially so it's another good player coming back. We’ve got four players who have done really well, Tasha [Goodwin] always does well when she comes on.
“I've got a real headache ahead of Forest next week. I'm happy with the defence.”
The quick turnaround between the two matches meant both sides were able to prepare for the game in greater detail, but Dobrzycki believes the lessons learned from last week cancelled each other out.
“It linked into our prep but I'm sure likewise their prep had stuff to do with our players,” he said. “We changed shape back to what we started with against Doncaster because we moved to a back three last week to get more width from the wing backs.
“Today we thought we can do that with the full backs anyway and just manage with two at the back in effect, which we did, and I think Holly [Otter] dropping in as a four between the centre backs helped us a lot with that.
“We got on the ball, we had overloads in wide areas, and I thought Ruby [Barnes] and Charlie [Duthie-Thompson] playing a bit narrower helped in the first half. It was really good, I thought the press led to that so the shape was a lot better.”
Rollins’ four goals took her tally to nine for the season in all competitions. Dobrzycki was pleased with her recent form and the change in system that has been used to accommodate her into the team.
He said: “It’s one of them with Iesha. She dropped into wingback to play for us at some point and that was about focusing on just getting some form back and having a simple role.
“We've freed her up a little bit in the ten against opposition where she is going to have chances. If I'm honest, forgetting all her other goals, just looking at today it was clinical, which is really nice.
“I know she can finish well, so seeing her confident and arriving at the right places, I was probably just as impressed with her off of the ball and how she dropped in and defended on their holding midfielder. Really good from her today.”
Duthie-Thompson was called up to the U20s for the first time this season having impressed so far for the U18s. The Ewes boss believes she took the step well and was a constant threat down the right-hand side.
He said: “She gave us a lot of energy. It will become refined as we go through the season and probably next season. But I’m really pleased with her, I thought she did well.
“We probably only planned to give her 45 minutes but then with injuries and things she got a bit longer and I thought she grew into it. It's a shame she didn't get a goal but there'll be more to come from her.
“Knowing the sort of character she is, she'll be beating herself up about [hitting the post]. She shouldn’t do because she played really well. All the girls were grateful for her performance, I thought her energy and work rate was superb.”
Forward Humphrey returned from New Zealand and is available for selection once again. She made her return from the bench and Dobrzycki was full of praise for how the Kiwi conducts herself.
“It’s great,” he said. “You probably saw a performance in the second half that had pretty much everything other than a goal, she put some brilliant balls in.
“She's just an absolute model professional when she trains, the way she works is great. There are some real selection headaches now.”
Barnes, after scoring twice, struggled with injury towards the end of the first half and was forced to be withdrawn at half-time. Dobrzycki hopes it is not too serious and she can return in time for next weekend.
He said: “She pulled up, we think we pulled some form of muscle in her abdomen which was a massive shame because she was awesome.
“I thought she played really well, the way she arrives in the box just getting her instincts. Her hold up play was excellent, I think a lot of the good play came down this left channel with Alex Owens, having Rosie [Hunt] back was fantastic and Ruby linking up.
“She's getting better game on game and she’s just turned 17. There's a lot to come from her as well so she's one we definitely hope we can get right for Sunday.”
Rosie Hunt started on her return from injury for the first time this season and was pleased to be back on the pitch following a long spell on the sidelines.
She said: “Really good, nice to be back playing with the girls and it was a good result.
“I’d have preferred a more exciting game really to get stuck into but it was nice to score some goals as a team and put in a good team performance.”
Likewise, Bella Mauro also returned for the first time in 16 months. The 19-year-old said her return was a long time coming and was satisfied with the dominant nature of victory.
“Nice to be back,” she added. “It was great performance from everyone and I’m just glad to be back playing.
“It was a nice game to come back into. Obviously, I would have preferred it to be a higher standard game. I must be the light with the clean sheet as well as five in a row in the league.”
Words by Kallum Brisset