Derby County Women opened up their 2023/24 FA Women's National League Northern Premier Division season with a 2-1 loss against Wolverhampton Wanderers Women at Mickleover FC's Don Amott Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Ellie Wilson and Amber Hughes’ first half goals proved to be enough for Wolves despite a spirited second half showing from the Ewes which saw midfielder Molly Sutherland pull a goal back on the hour mark.
Despite a strong spell of pressure late on Sam Griffiths’ side couldn’t find an equaliser as they tasted defeat on the opening day of the season.
Griffiths handed debuts to summer signings Anna Draper, Charlotte Steggles, Yasmin Mosby and Eleanor Ashton while fellow new recruit Maria Timms was named on the bench. Club Captain Hannah Ward, defenders Megan Tinsley, Ella Hilliard and Camille Jenkins were unavailable for selection.
A low-key start to the contest provided little in terms of chances in front of early on but, when the first opportunity arrived, Wolves took it after just 14 minutes.
Beth Merrick’s free-kick into the box from the left was glanced goalwards by the head of Wilson and it left goalkeeper Draper with little chance as the ball nestled into the far corner.
Derby had a chance to equalise moments after falling behind but Becky McGrother’s shot from inside the box following a corner was saved.
Wolves doubled their lead after 36 minutes through Hughes with a moment of magic. She latched onto a ball in behind the Derby defence and weaved her way into the area from the left before thundering a powerful right-foot effort into the roof of the net.
A third goal almost followed ahead of the break but centre-back Sarah Jackon’s sliced defensive clearance smacked against her own crossbar before the danger was cleared.
Derby came out of the traps strongly in the second half and Jess Camwell almost pulled a goal back when she saw her effort from McGrother’s cross into the penalty area saved.
Griffiths’ side eventually found their way back into the game as Sutherland reduced the deficit after 59 minutes. Good work by Mosby down the left to deliver a cross saw the ball fall to Sutherland and she swept a low effort into the bottom corner to register the side’s first goal of the campaign.
Derby dominated long spells of the final half hour and pushed for a leveller with time running out. The closest they came was through Emelia Wilson’s shot from inside the box, from another cross from the left by McGrother, which went narrowly wide.
Despite the defeat there were plenty of positives to take from the performance and particularly the way the Ewes took the game to their opponents, who are tipped to be competing at the top of the table once again this term, in the second period. It certainly offered encouraging signs for the season ahead.
Derby County Women: Draper (GK), Sims (C), Jackson, Steggles, McGrother, Joyce, Sutherland, Wilson, Ashton (Rai), Camwell (Rhodes-Andrews), Mosby.
Substitutes Not Used: Maguire (GK), Timms, Sheridan.
Derby face West Bromwich Albion on home turf in a week’s time on Sunday 27th August (2pm kick-off) in the League Cup, before returning to league action on Sunday 3rd September with a trip to Liverpool Feds (2pm kick-off).