Integral to the growth of the sport in this country.
A cloudy afternoon on Mother’s Day provided a light for Women’s Football in the East Midlands as Derby County Women hosted bitter rivals Nottingham Forest at Pride Park. Infront of a record crowd for Derby County Women. The Ewe Rams are more used to the home of Mickleover FC compared to a Championship stadium, but the players made it a fortress in a hard-fought 1-0 win to retain the East Midlands bragging rights. Derby’s players have been excellent all year and currently sit second in the Women’s National League Northern Division and it was a beautiful way to round off their home fixtures this season by gracing the hallowed Pride Park turf for the first time this season. It was great to see such a diverse ranging crowd inside the stadium, with longstanding fans and football newcomers in attendance The Derby faithful came close to seeing an early goal as the ever-dangerous Ellie Gilliatt came close to opening the scoring from close range but fired her shot over the bar after nine minutes. Derby were awarded a penalty after 17 minutes, after Emily Joyce was clipped in the box. Sherry McCue was on hand to dispatch, sending Forest goalkeeper Emily Batty the wrong way. McCue and her teammates ran over to celebrate in front of an ecstatic East Stand. The Ewe Rams were dominating in their new surroundings. Precious Hamilton and Gilliatt combined expertly to create another chance. Hamilton’s hold up play was followed by a superb ball to release her counterpart, but the shot was caught by Batty. Following the succession of chances, many of the young faithful began chanting ‘Derby, Derby, Derby’ in cohesion and in unison for the first time and certainly not the last as the love for Derby grew by each minute. The Ewe Rams have endured a difficult year and it was a heart-warming moment at half-time when the Punjabi Rams representatives received a standing ovation from the Pride Park crowd in recognition of what they’ve done to keep the Women’s team going this season. Derby supporters kept up their excellent energy in the second half as Gilliatt proved to be a crowd favourite getting spectators off their seats as she made another darting run past her marker on the right to get another cross into the Forest box. The Red’s Day at the home of their rivals continued to get worse and as the home fan’s day continued to get better. Derby left-back, Megan Tinsley was furious as she was sent off for deliberate handball on the goal line resulting in a penalty for the visitors. Gianna Mitchell sent the home fans into raptures, as she blazed her penalty high over the bar into the North Stand. Even with ten players, Derby’s never say die attitude continued. The team battled hard for the final 20 minutes and were still able to create more chances despite a resilient defensive showing.
Sophie Domingo impressed from the bench, and on another day could have had a goal and assist, impressing the crowd with some brilliant solo efforts. Every clearance, block, pass, challenge, and chance were met with cheers from Derby’s fledgling crowd as the crowd became the Rams 11th man in the second half
A hard-fought victory brought the three points home again for Derby, to claim East Midlands bragging rights once again.
For the players who walked onto the pitch with their children as they graced the Pride Park turf, some for the first time and the fans who are discovering a new passion for not only Derby County but for Women’s Football. As the Women's Euros approaches the Women’s game continues to grow. Events like Sunday's match at Pride Park are integral to the growth of the sport in this country.
Article written by University of Derby Football Journalism Student Elliot Yates