Derby County Women U20s will face Chesterfield Ladies in the final of the Derbyshire Women’s Cup at Grange Park this Sunday.
The young Ewes will be looking to carry on their excellent run of form, coming into the game off the back of three straight victories in the league, where they remain unbeaten and top of the standings over East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest.
The development side, who represent the club in the Derbyshire Women’s Cup, have won the competition a staggering eight times since its introduction in 2011 and will be gunning for a ninth taste of glory this weekend at the home of Long Eaton United.
Derby have breezed into Sunday’s showdown thanks to 3-1 victory over Long Eaton and a 15-0 thrashing against Amber Valleys in the final four, which saw Isabel Sheridan score seven of her 21 goals in all competitions this season.
They will come up against the Spireites, who have reached the final for the first time in their history following a 3-0 victory over Drayton Victoria in the semi-finals.
Manager Dan Dobrzycki, who has guided the Ewes to the summit of the FAWNL Reserve Midland Division with three league games to play, says the squad focus can now turn to the Chesterfield game while praising the work of opposition boss Mike Noon.
He said: “We've taken one game at a time, so our focus hasn't been on the cup because the league is your bread and butter and there’s some fantastic opposition.
“Chesterfield will be a very different challenge, they’re an experienced side and a women's side as opposed to a development side. We are used to that from last season, but it'll be a new challenge for some of the girls.
“They’re very well coached by Mike, they’ll be a really good setup. Whatever happens it'll be a really good game.”
Recent performances, including last Sunday’s 6-1 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers, have given the Derby boss some food for thought regarding team selection this weekend.
Dobrzycki said: “You've won 6-1 with Laura [Monk] and Rosie [Hunt] to come back, you’ve got subs coming in and doing well. It gives us a massive selection headache in midfield and in forward areas.
“At the minute, the defence is a difficult one to disrupt with the way they are playing, but there are a lot of conversations to be had with [coaches] Franco, Mark and Simon.”
He continued: “My thing for the girls now is that, if you're not starting in that game, that could be 120 minutes or it could be 90, you are part of it. You've got us here and when you do come on you need to have an impact.
“We can’t have any egos and we don’t have any at the moment. Obviously, I’ve got a lot to do but I trust the girls, with it being a squad game, to trust the girls around them. Then I trust the girls that came on to have a big impact like Ruby [Barnes] and Eleanor [Humphrey] did on Sunday, two that are probably dying to start games.
“They both had a massive part in Sheridan’s goal, they were excellent when they came on. It’s just about getting it right, the players trusting us to get it right as we have been doing this season and taking that momentum into the final.”
Dobrzycki has a large squad of players to choose from and says everybody has been itching to impress in training, which has been slightly altered by the Easter period.
“We knew we were going to have a good week of training,” he said. “You know it’s going to be one of them where everyone’s sharp.
“It’s the Easter holidays as well so it’s tricky, we had Easter Monday, which is our usual training night, so it disrupts our plan slightly, but we did the best we could on Tuesday and Thursday.
“Big thanks to the first team for accommodating us a little bit.”
Goalkeeper Lola Smith, who has been ever present this season, said that recent results have given the entire squad great confidence ahead of the Chesterfield tie and the run-in to the end of the season.
The 17-year-old said: “I think this has given us a bigger boost for next week as well. Hopefully we're all up for that. We’re confident, we’ve been winning games and we’ve not lost this season in the league.
“Dan said it's a really hard decision and everybody will be putting in all the effort in training to try and get that spot.”
Kick-off on Sunday is at 3pm.
Report by Kallum Brisset