Laura Monk scored a hat-trick as Derby County Women U20s remained top of the FAWNL Reserve Midland League after an 8-0 thrashing of Long Eaton United at Moor Farm.
Four goals in each half proved the difference as the league’s bottom side were brushed aside by a strong Ewes outfit, who stay unbeaten in the league this season.
Iesha Rollins and Ruby Barnes both scored twice, while Eleanor Humphrey was on the scoresheet for the first time since November.
The gap to rivals Nottingham Forest remains at one point with four league matches to play, including a mouth-watering clash between the sides on April 23.
Manager Dan Dobrzycki freshened things up with four changes from last week’s victory over West Bromwich Albion with Amelia Towers, Bella Mauro, Barnes and Humphrey all coming into the side.
Sasha Brassington, Holly Otter and Laila Abadi dropped to the bench, while top scorer Isabel Sheridan was in the squad for the first team against Brighouse Town.
A brief lapse in concentration inside the opening two minutes allowed Long Eaton’s Destiny Fieldhouse an early opportunity in behind, but Lola Smith was out well to claim.
The first chance for Derby came a few minutes later. Rollins was denied by the brave Laura Setchfield after she was found by a neat pass from Rosie Hunt.
Humphrey and Mauro both had efforts to open the scoring from outside the box before the breakthrough came soon after on 14 minutes.
An incredible double save from Setchfield was not enough to prevent the Ewes from scoring after Rollins’ neat footwork forced the goalkeeper into action. Barnes was on hand with the simplest of tasks to tap home the opener.
Within three minutes, the lead was doubled in bizarre and spectacular fashion. Humphrey appears to cross the ball towards the back post, but found the back of the net after looping over everybody in the middle for the New Zealander’s fourth goal of the season.
The hosts were in their groove and Barnes was inches away from making it three. After narrowly missing a teasing ball at full stretch that darted across the six-yard box, she then had the ball in the net but Rollins was judged to be in an offside position.
A succession of long-range efforts followed from Humphrey, who struck two marginally wide, and Hunt, who pounced on a loose ball to find the side-netting.
Barnes was unlucky not to get her second of the game on 34 minutes. She had the beating of the goalkeeper in a foot race and dinked the ball over her head, but a clearing defender was on the scene after it had fallen just short.
Monk met a corner well and had two efforts in an extremely crowded penalty area. The second struck a visiting arm and referee Simon O’Connor found himself pointing to the penalty spot.
Rollins slammed into the roof of the net from 12 yards, leaving Setchfield with no chance.
The last action of the half saw the Ewes add a fourth goal to the scoresheet. More good work by Rollins allowed Monk some space to shoot on the edge of the area and, after a slight deflection, the midfielder’s strike looped kindly into the bottom corner.
Derby’s intent was to start the second period as they had finished the first and forced a strong early save from visiting goalkeeper Setchfield. Rollins broke away down the right and found Monk with a neat pass inside, but her finish that was destined for the bottom corner was tipped behind.
Fresh from a double change at the break, the young Ewes found the woodwork in search of a fifth. Rollins slammed an effort against the upright before Monk saw a fierce strike of her own saved.
But the hosts would not be waiting much longer to increase their lead. Monk’s delightful ball forward found Rollins, whose strike was too strong at the near post for Setchfield’s hand to keep out as she notched up her 18th goal of her fine scoring season.
It was roles reversed five minutes later as Rollins turned provider. Her smart linkup play allowed Monk to slam a superb finish into the top corner for the sixth goal of the afternoon.
Otter and Humphrey were next to try their luck before the latter showed a turn of pace to dart beyond a pair of defenders and shoot against the goalkeeper.
Derby were in complete control and, by this stage, almost all of the possession was being played exclusively in the visitors’ half.
The Long Eaton post then came to their rescue twice in the space of three minutes. First, Barnes saw a poked effort hit the woodwork before Rollins struck the frame of the goal after racing away on a pacey counter-attack.
Derby’s seventh goal came with 10 minutes to go as Monk completed her hat-trick. Her rolled finish allowed her to continue her own excellent run of form to notch her eighth goal in the last five matches.
Two minutes later, a corner kick led to the conclusion of the scoring. Otter’s inswinging delivery was flicked on at the near post by Barnes for her second of the day.
Derby would not settle on the margin of lead they had, Humphrey and Abadi both testing Setchfield from range before the latter fired wide as she looked to add her name into the goalscoring mix.
Monk and Barnes had the final two chances in the dying seconds as the young Ewes rounded out a comprehensive victory over the league’s bottom side.
Derby are in action again next Sunday when they take a trip to the Sir Jack Haywood Training Ground to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Derby County (4-2-3-1): Smith; A. Towers, Owens (Abadi), M. Towers, Newton; Monk, Hunt (c) (Goodwin); Mauro (Otter), Humphrey, Rollins; Barnes. Subs: Brassington.
Report by Kallum Brisset
After the game, manager Dobrzycki was delighted with the result and the overall performance of his side but has admitted he would have liked his team to be more clinical in front of goal despite the 8-0 scoreline.
Four goals in each half were enough for the young Ewes to remain unbeaten in the FAWNL Reserve Midland League as they continued their surge towards becoming league champions.
Speaking after the game, Dobrzycki said: “It was a mixed bag, but we did alright in spells. I thought some of the goals we did score were good goals with good patterns to go along with those goals.
“It might sound greedy, especially after a win, but I would have liked us to have scored a couple more today. Probably if I am honest, we missed too many chances, but I think you cannot be too disappointed when you win 8-0 so overall, I am pleased.”
Dobrzycki was also pleased with the fact that everyone in his squad managed to get some game time in the victory at Moor Farm, with special praise for the likes of Humphrey and Barnes who managed to get some important minutes under their belt.
On squad rotation, Dobrzycki said: “It is very tricky because you have got a lot of good players here, so it is difficult. Also, when first team players come in, you have then got to rotate that as well, so it was a nice chance for Eleanor who has been ill, she came back in, and I thought she looked good.
“It was probably quite harsh on Ruby as well to be out of the team, but I thought she did well today and she took those two goals brilliantly.
“I think that is the one thing that was a real positive from today’s game and that everyone got good amounts of game time.”
In the game, four of the eight goals that were scored involved the clever linkup play between Monk and Rollins, with the pair either scoring or assisting each other in half of the goals in the contest.
On the pair, Dobrzycki was delighted with Monk and Rollins’ contribution to the team but as well as that, has also praised the other parts of the game in which good linkup play was shown.
Dobrzycki added: “If you look at the goal involvements, those two combining with each other is by far our highest combination this season. I am really happy with those pair.
“There were some other good bits of good linkup as well. As well as Iesha and Laura in that right channel, I think Sarah [Newton] does a lot of that from right back or at right centre back.
“The patterns and our linkup play have looked really good as of late.”
With another much-needed victory in the bag, the attention now turns to a trip to Wolves in the young Ewe Rams’ next league game, with Dobrzycki’s side still very much in the driving seat in the race for the league title.
However, Dobrzycki believes he has an idea of how his side can break Wolves down to claim another result, with the Derby boss admitting there could be a couple of surprises in store ahead of the fixture.
“We have got a good idea of what we can do against them [Wolves],” added Dobrzycki. “We know where they are strong, and we know where we think we can hurt them.
“There might be a few surprises and a few changes for that for that starting 11 depending on how training is. I think whatever we do, we have got a good intention of going there and we will certainly be going there to attack them and try and win the game.
“We will not be happy with a draw.”
Barnes also spoke after the game and offered her thoughts on the team’s performance against Long Eaton United as well as her own after scoring two of the eight goals, with Barnes claiming she should have had a third in the game as well.
On the game, she said: “I think we played well; we got the goals we needed to add to our goal difference. I think we could have scored more to be fair, especially in the second half. We had more intensity in the second half, and I thought we played better.
“I got two goals. One was an offside goal as well, but I think that was a bit dodgy to be fair.
“I do think I could have done a bit better when holding the ball up, but I thought it was a decent performance overall.”
After helping her side wrap another three points in the quest to win the league, Barnes’ attention as well as the rest of the squad now turns to a trip to Wolves in a game in which she believes her side can go and get something from.
Barnes added: “I think we can go to Wolves with the belief that we can get something out of the game, we have got a good side here.
“We are still missing a couple of players and it is sure to be a really difficult game come next week, but I still think we have got the potential to win the game as we will go there and give it our best shot.”
Words by Jordan Richards