Ruby Barnes and Laura Monk both scored twice as Derby County Women U20s recorded a 5-3 victory over Lincoln City at Moor Farm to earn their tenth league victory on the spin.
Barnes struck twice in the first half, but Derby had to fend off a spirited fightback from the Imps after the visitors had levelled proceedings in the second period.
Monk completed her double before an in-form Iesha Rollins wrapped the points up late on as the unbeaten young Ewes maintain the pressure on league leaders Nottingham Forest in the FAWNL Reserve Midland League.
Derby boss Dan Dobrzycki made three changes from last week’s victory in the East Midlands Derby at Mickleover. Barnes, Eleanor Humphrey and Amelia Towers all returned to the side.
Isabel Sheridan, who has scored 17 goals in all competitions this season, was not involved after she was called up to the bench for the senior team’s fixture against Huddersfield Town this afternoon.
Jodie Steadman had the first effort of the game for Lincoln. She fired narrowly wide on the half volley in what was an early scare for the hosts.
It had been a flat start and Derby created their first opportunity through captain Rosie Hunt. Her cross found Rollins inside the six-yard box, but the forward snatched at her effort and Lincoln cleared their lines.
The Ewes took the lead just two minutes later, though. Rollins collected a ball forward from Humphrey and passed Isabella Bogg with ease before cutting back for Monk to finish over Lincoln goalkeeper Lana Timson, whose hand was not strong enough to keep it out.
It was 2-0 on 24 minutes after a goalkeeping mix-up. Rollins recycled a corner with a looping ball into the box, which dropped for Barnes to complete the simplest of tasks to tap into the empty net.
Monk fired narrowly wide from 20 yards as Derby chased a third and, on 31 minutes, they got it.
Amelia Sedgwick failed to deal with a ball inside her penalty area and succumbed to the pressure of Monk. Barnes was on hand to find the bottom corner for her second of the game and ninth goal of the season.
Alex Owens was denied a wonder assist when she breezed past two defenders on the byline, including one nutmeg, but the cutback was just in front of Barnes who could not connect cleanly.
Lincoln pulled a goal back when Neve Hincks beat Lola Smith to her left after an earlier effort was saved by the Derby goalkeeper.
Derby, looking for an instant response, had the ball in the net through Rollins but the flag was up for offside against the Ewes number 10.
The strong right hand of Smith kept out Lincoln’s Chloe Bailey after a fierce strike threatened her goal following Hincks’ good work in midfield.
From the resulting corner, Bailey almost found the net within a scramble before Derby cleared their lines. Some of the visiting players were appealing that the ball had crossed the line.
The few minutes of carnage continued as Lincoln found their second goal. Hincks scored with a looping strike from the edge of the box. Suddenly Lincoln were in the ascendency and Derby might have been thankful for the half-time whistle which came moments later.
Rollins rounded Timson early in the second half before a covering defender prevented further danger. Humphrey fired narrowly over and Barnes soon hit the bar from the edge of the box.
Derby were left ruing these chances as the Imps completed the comeback on 52 minutes. Out of nothing, Holly Wilson caught Smith out of goal and found the net from more than 35 yards to level the game.
With the Ewes looking to retake the lead, substitute Natasha Goodwin almost scored from a corner when her looping header bounced off the underside of the crossbar after Monk had forced the set-piece with an effort from range.
But Derby were not waiting for too much longer and reinstated their advantage through Monk’s second of the day. After seeing her initial shot saved, the midfielder poked home at the second attempt to move onto nine goals for the season in all competitions.
Goodwin found herself with another headed effort from a corner soon after. This time, her attempt looked destined for the bottom corner if not for a goal-line clearance from Imps defender Melissa Riley.
As the game moved into the final 15 minutes, Derby almost wrapped it up on the break. Rollins’ ball across for Barnes was poked wide of the far post with some in the crowd already celebrating.
Monk saw the woodwork prevent a hat-trick of her own as her strike deflected onto the post after she had driven into space in the penalty area.
Barnes attempted the spectacular with a scorpion kick, which eventually fell to Bella Mauro, who saw her effort blocked from close range as she searched for a first goal since returning from a long-term injury.
Smith was alert to Steadman’s free-kick, palming away the strike from just outside the box.
Derby sealed the victory with four minutes remaining through more neat work from Monk. Her exquisite cross found Rollins, who took a fine touch before finishing into the bottom corner to continue her purple patch in front of goal. That marked her seventh in the last three games.
Lincoln’s Wilson was booked for dissent in the closing minutes while Smith made a point-blank save deep into stoppage time to maintain the two-goal buffer.
The young Ewes, who hold a game in hand over leaders Forest, remain level on points at the top of the division with their East Midlands counterparts. They travel to Long Eaton United next week.
Derby County (4-3-3): Smith; Owens, M. Towers, Abadi, A. Towers; Hunt (c), Otter (Goodwin), Monk; Barnes, Humphrey (Mauro), Rollins. Subs: Lane.
Report by Kallum Brisset
Under 20s manager Dobrzycki was disappointed in what he saw at Moor Farm despite his team’s 5-3 win over Lincoln City on Sunday afternoon.
The coach pulled no punches when talking about his team’s performance and put forward what he thought could be improved in the upcoming fixtures.
“We were awful for the vast majority of the game, to be honest. I know that’s very blunt,” Dobrzycki told the website. “The shape wasn’t there, the intensity wasn’t there, and the response to conceding wasn’t right. The positive is that we won the game and a couple of individual performances.”
The development side were often their own worst enemy in the fixture which led to the Ewe’s giving up a 3-0 advantage and Dobrzycki put this down to a lack of clinicality in the final third.
He said: “The players did as well as they should have done.
“With all due respect to Lincoln, who fought and were very well-coached today, we shouldn’t have been in that position.
“You can argue that to get the 5-3, that’s great and I am pleased we did do that but the amount of chances we missed before that point is a worry.”
The Ewe Rams were missing stalwart central defender Sasha Brassington with Laila Abadi stepping into defence with Dobrzycki hoping she can make a return to full fitness but didn’t want to put the performance down to missing key individuals.
“Sasha is brilliant and I’m not saying if she was back things would have been different, you don’t know, but she was a big loss.” Dobrzycki explained. “It’s precaution rather than an injury so we’ll hopefully have her back because she makes a massive difference to be fair but I don’t think we can blame not having certain players here.
“The line of thinking we’re going down is more about the levels of each individual and what they do as a collective because they’re all good enough to do better.”
Near the end of the game, Holly Otter went down with an injury following a strong tackle from a Lincoln player and the coach was quick to provide an update on her situation following being brought off.
He said: “We don’t know yet [about Otter’s injury].
“She landed on her back. I didn’t see the tackle, I wasn’t on the right side to see it properly so I don’t know if they got the ball or not but she doesn’t look in a good way so we’ll have to assess that one later today or maybe tomorrow.”
Monk was at the double in the game and gave insight into the team’s performance and how she thought the phases of play improved from the Ewes as the game progressed.
She said: “I think it got better throughout the game.
“We started keeping the ball better towards the end when I thought we were giving it away too easily in the first half when we didn’t need to.
“The patterns of play got better and we started moving for each other.”
The 19-year-old midfielder was irritated by the manner in which the game ended up needing to be won but was impressed with the mindset of the squad on their way to a further three points.
“I think it’s disappointing because we know we can play so much better than that and conceding poor goals is annoying but you have to keep going and make sure you get the win.”
Words by Riley Somerville