Derby County Women Under 20s finished the FA WNL Reserve Midlands Division campaign unbeaten after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Lincoln City at Moorlands Sports Ground on Sunday.
Dan Dobrzycki’s young Ewe Rams wrapped up the league title with a win over Sporting Khalsa in their last game, but they struggled to break down a compact Imps defence in a first half in which chances were few and far between.
Ruby Barnes came closest to opening the scoring for Derby on the 10-minute mark, as she could only glance her header wide from a lofted corner delivered by Sarah Newton.
Iesha Rollins had the closest opportunity in the first half, where very little was created for either side. She decided to try her luck from range thanks to a great ball through from Laila Abadi, with the attacker’s strike from outside the box whistling past the far post.
Come the second half and Dobrzycki’s side managed to step up a gear, with a free-kick from Newton three minutes into the half being punched by Lincoln goalkeeper Lana Timson straight back into danger where a scuffle inside the box took place before the ball fell nicely to Abadi. Still, she could only direct her first-time strike over the crossbar.
The pressure would pay off for the Ewes as they found the breakthrough just before the hour mark, with Newton again at the heart of the build-up.
A cross from Derby’s number 15 was flicked on from the head of Barnes straight to the path of Rollins, who made no mistake as she buried home past Timson in the Lincoln goal to give the Ewe Rams a deserved lead in Lincolnshire.
The influential Rollins came close to doubling the lead for Derby five minutes later as she could only direct her first-time effort narrowly wide following good work from Eleanor Humphrey.
Despite several chances in the second half to add to their lead at Moorlands Sports Ground, which included what looked to be a certain goal for Isobel Sheridan, which was cleared off the line from a Lincoln defender, one goal was enough to give the young Ewe Rams the three points over Lincoln, which confirmed their status as unbeaten league champions.
After the game, manager Dobrzycki was in high spirits following what has been a successful campaign for his team and how well the players have represented the club throughout the season, even when some periods seem tougher than others.
“I’m really proud,” expressed Dobrzycki. “There’s a lot of good teams in this league, so to go unbeaten, you want to say miraculous, but actually, they’ve ground it out, and they’ve got the results to do that against some really good teams.
“There’s been some issues and numerous things I won’t mention that’s made this season a lot harder, but within that camp, they know, and that’s why I think it means so much even to them.
“It’s taken a massive amount of hard work, and that’s from everyone at the club as we fought towards the same goal.”
Dobrzycki was quick to praise the eventual match-winner Rollins and commended his side’s work to get the breakthrough, which was enough to seal the points.
Dobrzycki added: “I’m so pleased for Iesha (Rollins), in what is probably her final game, to score that goal.
“It was a very well-worked goal, with the ball into Ruby (Barnes) for the flick on from Sarah’s (Newton) cross with Iesha lurking inside the box, and she took her goal really well, which was enough for us in the end.
“We didn’t look too troubled in the game either, so I’m really pleased.”
Words by Jordan Richards