Derby County Women secured a history-making 4-2 win at high-flying Exeter City in their Women’s National League Plate Semi-Final on Sunday afternoon to book their place in the Final of the competition.

Goals from Eleanor Ashton, Charlotte Steggles and Camille Jenkins, as well as an unfortunate own goal by an Exeter defender, saw the Ewes progress to a Final for the first time in their history.

Exeter are a league below Sam Griffiths’ side in the standings, but they haven’t lost in the Women’s National League Division One South West for over a year and provided a stern test for the Ewes.

Key Moments

The Grecians started the game on the front foot with the majority of the first 35 minutes being played in Derby’s half.

Exeter offered a warning sign after just nine minutes when Mollie Taylor drove down the right flank. She pulled the ball back, but goalkeeper Sarah Morgan collected the ball to void the danger that had gathered at her back post.

The hosts broke the deadlock after half an hour while Derby were down to ten players after midfielder Emelia Wilson was sin binned.

Sarah Stacey won a header on the edge of the box to get the move started. The nod on found Taylor, whose venomous strike was met by Morgan’s hand although she could only deflect the ball into the top corner.

The Ewes responded just five minutes later through Ashton to get back on level terms. She brought a switched ball down brilliantly and drove into the box before striking low across the goalkeeper to draw Derby level. The 19-year-old, who is with the Ewes on a dual-registration basis from Manchester United, now has 11 goals in all competitions this season.

Ashton played her part once again as Derby took the lead a few minutes later. She swung in a fine cross from the right to find Steggles, who headed the ball home from five yards out to put the Ewes 2-1 up at the break.

A bright start to the second half from Griffiths’ side saw captain Sims put in a low cross which was turned into the net by an Exeter defender to make it 3-1 five minutes after the restart.

Exeter claimed a goal back just after the hour mark after substitute Amber Pollock found herself in space on the edge of the box. The forward fired the ball low into the bottom left corner of the net beyond Morgan.

However, substitute Jenkins extended the Ewes’ lead once more as she claimed the fourth and final of the game by side-footing Rebecca May’s corner past Abbi Bond in the Exeter goal. It was Jenkins’ first goal of the season and she couldn’t have timed it any better to help fire Derby to victory and into the Final.

Sam Griffiths’ side look to build on this win when they return to league action next Sunday at the Don Amott Arena against Burnley (2pm kick-off) and will face Cambridge United in the National League Plate Final in April after they defeated Barnsley 3-2 in their Semi-Final.

The Teams

Derby County Women: Morgan (GK), Sims (C), Ward (Shepherd), Steggles, Jackson, Meadows, Wilson, Joyce, May (St. John), Rhodes-Andrews (Rai), Ashton (Jenkins).

Unused Substitute: Draper (GK).

Exeter City Women: Bond (GK), Sharpe (C), Jackson, Stacey (Pollock), Sandland (Dixon), Baker, Ireland, Markham, Cunningham (Watkins), Taylor, Gillies (Pengelly).

Unused Substitute: Grigg (GK).

Words: Hannah Walker