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Derby County Women made history on Sunday afternoon by winning the FA Women’s National League Plate for the first time in their history with a convincing 3-0 success against Cambridge United Women in the Final of the competition.

Eleanor Ashton’s spot-kick just after the half hour mark set Derby on their way and captain Amy Sims doubled their lead at the end of the opening period.

Derby had chances to extend their lead in dominant display before midfielder Emily Joyce scored a superb effort late on to confirm the victory for Sam Griffiths’ side at FC United of Manchester’s Broadhurst Park home.

Key Moments

In the spring sunshine, Derby started the contest by enjoying plenty of possession. They got themselves into some promising attacking areas, notably having success out wide, but were unable to turn their early pressure into clear goalscoring opportunities.

Their first chance came after ten minutes when skipper Sims latched onto a long pass forward and got in behind the Cambridge backline to advance towards goal. With the ball bouncing and Derby's leading goalscorer unable to bring it under control, she tried a lofted effort which drifted narrowly wide of the far post.

Sims came close a few minutes later, too, when she met defender Sarah Jackson’s excellent cross from the right with a firm header which went wide of Cambridge goalkeeper Lauren Webb’s post.

Derby’s pressure eventually saw them awarded a penalty on the half hour mark following a handball by a Cambridge defender, under pressure from Joyce, and Ashton made no mistake from 12 yards out to hammer the ball into the back of the net. The forward saw her penalty saved in last weekend’s 1-0 loss at Halifax but she showed no nerves by confidently sending Webb the wrong way this time around.

The Ewes were dealt a blow late in the half when midfielder Becky May was forced off with a calf injury and she was replaced by attacker Marli Rhodes-Andrews.

Cambridge a great chance towards the end of the first half when Ruth Fox let fly with a right-foot strike from distance that whistled just past goalkeeper Sarah Morgan’s right-hand post - and it proved to be costly as Derby went down the other end and doubled their lead.

Ashton did brilliantly down the right to deliver a teasing cross, which Webb was unable to deal with, and Sims used her attacking instinct to good effect as she was in the right place at the right time to rifle the ball into the back of the net.

Derby came close to making it three shortly after half-time after good work by club captain Hannah Ward and Ashton down the right which resulted in Emelia Wilson shooting just wide from the edge of the box.

A neat one-two between Sims and Ward nearly provided in a third for Derby and a second of the afternoon for the former just after the hour, but a Cambridge defender got back to make a vital interception as she prepared to the pull the trigger from eight yards out.

Sims came close again with 20 minutes left as she met Jackson’s free-kick into the box with a low header which went just wide and Rhodes-Andrews hit the crossbar direct from a corner as the clock ticked down.

Joyce, the Ewes’ reining Player of the Season, rounded off the scoring with two minutes of normal time remaining with a stunning effort from long range which flew into the top corner for her first goal of the campaign. It was a fitting way to open her account for the season after another consistent year in the middle of the park.

Cambridge never threw the towel in and pushed for a way back into the tie but, in the end, Derby saw the game out well and confidently to run out deserved winners to get their hands on the National League Plate for the first time.

The Teams

Derby County Women: Morgan (GK), Sims (C), Steggles, Jackson (Shepherd 90), Wilson, Joyce, Ward, Ashton (Sheridan 76), Jenkins, Rai (Meadows 67), May (Rhodes-Andrews 44).

Substitutes Not Used: Draper (GK).

Cambridge United Women: Webb (GK), Rouse, Jackson (C), Cheal-Ferris, Marden (Gillies 88), Kosky, Fox, Cobb, Edgar, Stojko-Down, Simmons (Simpson 60) (Otten 86).

Substitutes Not Used: Marjoram.



What’s Next?

The Ewes will return to action in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division on Wednesday when they head to the West Midlands to face Wolverhampton Wanderers at the New Bucks Head (7:45pm kick-off), before returning to the Don Amott Arena to face Liverpool Feds on Sunday 28th April (2pm kick-off) in their final home fixture of the season.