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Derby County Women concluded their 2023/24 season with an impressive 2-0 victory at FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division runners-up Burnley.

The Ewes took the lead midway through the first half at Turf Moor through forward Dolcie O’Connor’s strike, her third goal in Derby colours since joining on a dual-registration basis from Manchester City earlier this year.

Captain and leading goalscorer Amy Sims bagged her 21st goal of the season in all competitions with a stunning long-range effort just after half-time to double the Ewes’ advantage.

A fine away day performance, showing defensive discipline and a threat when going forward, was the perfect way for Sam Griffiths’ side to bring down the curtain on their campaign, with three points and a clean sheet at the home of one of the division’s leading outfits.

Key Moments

Derby’s line-up showed one change from last weekend’s thrilling 4-3 home win over Liverpool Feds at the Don Amott Arena with youngster Molly Towers, after an impressive season at youth level, coming into the side for her full debut in place of winger Kira Rai, who reverted to the bench.

Taking to the field in the Lancashire sunshine and gracing a Premier League stadium, Derby settled quickly and produced some encouraging patterns of play to get themselves high up the pitch.

Young Player of the Season Emelia Wilson saw a shot deflected wide for a corner early on, after good play by Eleanor Ashton, while down the other end Burnley’s Laura Elford had a goal ruled out for offside.

Derby took the lead on 24 minutes with O’Connor netting her second goal in as many games in fine fashion. The forward hit a left-foot strike goalwards from distance via a deflection which, despite seeing goalkeeper Lucy Farrell get a fingertip to the ball, found the back of the net.

Burnley responded quickly with a chance of their own on the breakaway and Ewes goalkeeper Anna Draper had to be at her best to deny Rhema Lord-Mears. Aimee Kelly also had a chance a few minutes later after finding herself free at the back post, but she was unable to hit the target.

Long-serving Club Captain Hannah Ward and O’Connor both had opportunities after the half-hour mark. However, goalkeeper Farrell wasn’t seriously tested as Derby looked to nudge themselves further in front.

Burnley upped the ante in the final stages of the first half and pushed to get back level going into the turnaround. Despite that, the Ewes remained compact from a defensive aspect to retain their lead.

Derby had to predictably soak up some pressure from the home side early in the second half, but they stormed into a two-goal lead ten minutes after the interval through skipper Sims.

After receiving the ball from Wilson and advancing towards the penalty area, the Ewes’ leading goalscorer let fly with a stunning effort which flew into the far corner. After hitting the magic 20 number in all competitions against Liverpool Feds last time out, Sims showed no signs of easing off in front of goal in impressive fashion.

Burnley knocked on the door to get back into the game and Draper had to keep out Kelly’s powerful strike, while Emma Siddall also headed wide as another opportunity went begging for the Clarets.

Siddall drew another routine stop from Draper as the clock ticked down, although it wasn’t all one-way traffic as substitute Marli Rhodes-Andrews flashed a strike wide from distance as Derby looked to go even further ahead.

Substitute Lizzy Hamer came agonisingly close to pulling a goal back for Burnley with ten minutes left and, although Draper was this time beaten, the ball cannoned back off the crossbar. Elford followed up with a chance moments later for Burnley but failed to hit the target.

After standing up to everything that was thrown their way, Derby saw the game out well to deservedly end the season with back-to-back victories to occupy seventh spot in the table.

For now, though, the Ewes’ squad will rest up and prepare for the 2024/25 campaign. After a history-making National League Plate success and a money-making FA Cup run this term, there are plenty of positives to look back on and use as a stepping stone when preparations kick into action for next season.

The Teams

Burnley Women: Farrell (GK), McPartlan, Marshall, Embley, Elford, Lord-Mears (Lackey 68), Hartley (Wildgoose 88), Wilkes (Hamer 63), Kelly (Amaya 77), Siddall, Robinson (Reidford 57).

Derby County Women: Draper (GK), Sims (C), Steggles, Wilson, Joyce, Ward, Ashton, Jenkins, Meadows, Towers (Rhodes-Andrews 70), O’Connor (Rai 79).

Substitutes Not Used: Sheridan, Shepherd.

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