Derby County Women Development were knocked out of the FAWNL Reserve Plate at the quarter-final stage following a 3-1 defeat to Newcastle United at Moor Farm Training Ground.
When the action got underway, the away side started the more threatening of the two with a strike on goal from Jasmine McQuade forcing Ewe Rams keeper Lola Smith to tip it over the bar and out for the corner.
Derby struggled to get a foothold of the game in the early stages as Newcastle piled on the pressure, with a brilliant through ball from McQuade found Georgina Spraggon in on goal, with her strike at the near post forcing Smith to make a smart save.
Newcastle eventually took the lead on the 20th-minute mark as Sasha Brassington was judged to have brought down Lily West inside the box, with the referee pointing to the penalty spot and booking Brassington in the process.
From the resulting penalty, Spraggon placed her spot kick into the bottom right corner to beat Smith, to give the away side a deserved lead.
As the game got older, the Ewes started to grow in confidence, with chances from Sarah Newton and Laura Monk going close, with chances from the pair being hit just over the bar.
When the action for the second half at Moor Farm kicked off, Derby managed to find an equaliser within four minutes of the restart.
Ewes full-back Amelia Towers did well on the left-hand side to find a ball to Isabel Sheridan from inside the box, with Sheridan slotting home beyond Newcastle goalkeeper Frankie Hackett to claim her 16th goal in all competitions this season.
Following the equaliser, Derby continued to push for the goal to put them in front, with Laila Abadi doing well to dispose Newcastle of possession and then drive towards goal, with her effort from outside the area going down the throat of keeper Hackett.
Despite an encouraging first 15 minutes for the Ewes in the second half, against the run of play, Newcastle managed to retake the lead on the hour mark.
Despite an attempted challenge by Brassington on the edge of the box, McQuade trips as she runs through on goal but manages to recover to her feet to slot home past Smith.
Things went from bad to worse for Derby a minute later as Newcastle bagged a third, to give the away side breathing space, with McQuade feeding the ball through to substitute Sophie Curle one-on-one with Smith, with Curle finding the bottom right corner.
Frustration started to kick in amongst the squad as Derby tried to push for a way back into the game, with Amelia Towers going the closest late on when she did well to take the ball beyond the Newcastle defence, with her powerful strike from inside the box going just inches wide of the far post.
Despite a valiant effort overall, it was the Ewes that bowed out of the FAWNL Reserve Plate as Newcastle held on to claim victory to progress into the next round.
Looking to move on from this disappointing result, the development side return to Moor Farm in a week’s time when they return to league action against Loughborough Lightning Development in a 14:00 kick-off.
Report by Jordan Richards.
Manager Dan Dobrzycki reflected on the performance and was pleased with how his side played in parts, while also heaping the praise on Newcastle as an opposition.
“It was a tough game,” he said. “Elements of what we did was good, we were happy with how we started the second half, we came out and played well.
“But a lot of credit to Newcastle, they’re probably the fittest team we've played. I think they’re the best team we’ve played out of possession. I don't think they created a lot for themselves when they had to break us down, but I thought the way they locked on to us was absolutely fantastic, two of the goals coming from that.
“There were probably a lot of lessons for us actually, ways we can improve and how not to play.”
Unlike in recent matches, the young Ewes did not have the action all their own way. Dobrzycki, though, knew the Magpies would prove to be a much tougher test and believes the challenge will hold his team in good stead in the upcoming matches.
He said: “Nobody’s under any false illusions when we're playing these as opposition, at what level we were at. It's just very difficult to go from one standard to another standard and I actually thought the girls did it in the game and adapted to it.
“I think it's a really good game to have had when we've had it with harder games coming up in the league and I think there'll be a lot of learning from it.”
Derby found themselves a goal behind at the break due to a penalty despite a relatively even first half where both sides had chances to score.
The Ewes responded in the perfect way after the interval by finding the equaliser within four minutes of the restart. Dobrzycki’s message to the players at half-time was clear.
“They’re very aware, they're a good group of players so they knew,” he said. “We just did one or two tactical tweaks, we moved a couple of the midfielders, made a change up front for a bit more of a presence and to stretch them a little bit and I thought we did that quite well.
“The press was really good, we deservedly equalised at that point and then, unfortunately, two very quick goals that we caused ourselves. That sort of killed it for us in the end.”
Isabel Sheridan added to her ever-growing tally of goals and has now reached 16 for the season in all competitions. The Ewes boss was full of praise for the youngster and says her performances are improving week on week.
He said: “16 years old and she's doing really well. I think all parts of her game are improving and she's still got things she can work on.
“She's probably missed another 16 to 20 [chances], which some people say that's a negative but the fact she's getting that many chances speaks to what kind of player she is. She’s doing really well.”
On captain Laila Abadi, Dobrzycki added: “Laila was girl of the game for us today, she was excellent. I think she embodied everything we needed to do well, and I think if we all match that moving forward in the upcoming games then I think we'll do well.
“Nobody thinks we can't play, we can all see we can play. It's just doing the other side of the game a little bit better, so once we get both ends right, hopefully we’ll have a really good end to the season.”
Recent weeks have seen Derby’s development side progress in the Derbyshire County Cup, where they will take on Chesterfield in the final, with a date and venue yet to be confirmed.
Dobrzycki is hoping for another victory in the competition but highlighted that the match against the Spireites will not be as straightforward as perhaps the previous rounds have been.
“Very pleasing,” he said. “In all honesty, it's been quite an easy cup run, but obviously we know that's not going to be the case in the final.
“Chesterfield a very good so the game itself will be a very tough test and hopefully we can win some silverware.”
With attention now turning back to the league campaign, where Derby remain unbeaten and sit third in the table, Dobrzycki was pleased to get back to Reserve Midland League action ahead of the visit of Loughborough Lightning to Moor Farm next Sunday.
He said: “We want to get some points on the board. Other teams have taken ground off us because they've been playing in the league and we haven't but it's the exact game we want.
“The response these girls always give when we've had a defeat, and they've been quite rare in the last couple of seasons, has always been very good.
“I look forward to training on Monday and Thursday, and then putting it into practice against Loughborough.”
Midfielder Laura Monk also reflected on defeat to Newcastle and there were positives to take from the performance despite exiting the FAWNL Reserve Plate.
“I think we played well for parts of it,” she said. “Everyone worked hard but I just think we lost some time in the final third. We were unlucky, it was two goals that were against the run of play and it was quite an even match.
She added: “We needed to make sure we were winning our individual battles. We wanted to play the ball quickly and try and play it through them.
“We build as a team on our performances into the next match.”
Words by Kallum Brisset.