Derby County 0-4 Leicester City (Women's FA Cup Round Four)
We've been up Blidworth Bottoms and had a lovely walk this morning around Sherwood Forest ahead of grabbing a great bacon and tomato cob and cuppa tea at the coffee truck in the car park. A salty sloppy burnt bacon bap that touched the spot enough to consider coming back next weekend and doing the same again.
I'm back home for an hour or so before heading out. It's WSL big girls Leicester who enter the fourth round of the FA Cup. Third tier part timers Derby County are hosts in an East Midlands Derby at Mickleover's Don Amott Arena.
It's 1:30pm and I aim to get to the ground for 2pm although a crash outside the Showcase in Nottingham has me stuck in traffic and late. Finally I'm on the A52 Derby Road and heading across the Brian Clough Way before navigating the ring road system of DE1 and turning on to Friar Gate and continuing past Markeaton Park towards Mackworth on the Ashbourne Road.
It's been ten years since I've been here last and as I pull in I've noticed a few new houses built nearby, the car parking is fortunately free but it's packed as we are all asked to pull our motors on the cricket field which hasn't been cut for months. Relief that the surface is hard as a week or two earlier I might have been requesting a tractor to pull me out of what potentially feels like it could quickly become a mud bath.
I'm out of the car and reaching for my man bag as I check the clock and it's ten past two. Heading straight for the turnstile I'm scanned through and walk into the venue behind the goal, netting up as the players are on the pitch warming their muscles, the place already full of fans as I walk around the perimeter, the surface used to be awful here but these days it's 3G and hosts a number of games on a daily basis which no doubt contributes to a few neat touches that have appeared around the place since my last visit.
Only one stand of choice, to the left a modern seated stand just five or six rows in height is one where the press and directors seats are also situated. Opposite is open end with dugouts and a couple of portacabins, two sides without cover as one end to my right, behind the goal has the clubhouse and changing room. I once remember the ground serving it's own Mickleover Sports ale in that place... I wonder if the brewery is still going strong?
I've sat down ahead of the match next to a chap who does OPTA for Derby County and it's his first women's game, I tell him he's in for a treat.
Leicester are the dominant force early doors, the gulf of class down the levels is huge and you can see how the professionals are so much better, not just in quality but physically, and athletically, as the scout besides me points out.
The Foxes are good, probing, passing, they have all of the ball, so much so their goalkeeper Kop is regularly on the half way line. She's like Rene Higuita without the tash. She doubles up as a centre half simply for someone Sophie Howard can pass to and at one stage her left back Cayman is retrieving the ball even deeper than she is.
The possession stats are frightening but Derby are holding firm, every tackle and block is done so with aggression and Draper in the 'Ewes' goal is stopping everything that comes her way, but a corner on 27 is headed against a post by Petermann who's quickest to react to the rebound. She prods home from close range a sloppy goal for Derby to concede after all their good defensive work.
That goal is enough to separate the two teams at half time as the Opta guys goes "there's fifty minutes I won't get back" it's not a thrilling match, very one sided but credit Derby for keeping the score down in their low block. I'm nervous for them however as Leicester's bench is even stronger than their starting eleven.
The second half sees more 'peppering' as an early shot hits the top of the crossbar, Cayman then finds space as a cross is nestled home by the Belgian to double the away sides advantage.
Leicester have the luxury of making a couple of subs and one of those, Canadian forward Deanne Rose strikes from inside the area into the roof of the net. Yuki Momiki, another off the bench then whips in a free kick which is deflected into her own net by Steggles, 0-4 Leicester and fifteen still to play.
Derby however hold out to keep the score down to four and are relieved by the time the whistle goes, it's been one way traffic but a good learning curve for the home side who in the end will take some positives from the way they competed against opposition who in fairness, are very very good and are a collection of top players from around the world.
One of those globetrotters, Japanese debutant Saori Takarada had a good game in midfield as she kept things short but progressive in a number eight role. Besides her the ever industrious Sam Tierney worked hard. Petermann up front was a real handful, a tall cultured German number nine whilst the Foxes back four had a lot of the ball and a lot of time to enjoy it, Sophie Howard smoking a cigar whilst strutting balls around with a rolls Royce performance.
For Derby, goalkeeper Anna Draper was not just the Ewes, but the games best player. Defensively they got bodies behind the ball and were very gutsy, but on the ball they lacked any real identity and we're well and truly outplayed. If they had more than 10% possession I'll be surprised.
A good cup run could give Leicester a bit of deserved limelight, they are very much in the middle pack of the WSL behind the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, City, United, and although are a way off the biggest and best four clubs in the country. Along with Aston Villa, Spurs, Liverpool etc however they can certainly compete, they are much improved on last season and the longer they are in the top flight the better they will get. I've personally seen a lot of improvement in them myself.
Derby are doing ok in the third tier and games like this will put them in a better place the next time they play such professional and organised opposition. No shame in losing with dignity in tact and a good cup run may come to a close, but over 900 in attendance, they are doing their bit to grow the game locally and these funds earned will certainly help push them towards better things going forward.
Derby County: Anna Draper, Amy Sims, Charlotte Steggles (Isabel Sheridan 83), Sarah Jackson, Emelia Wilson, Emily Joyce, Hannah Ward, Eleanor Ashton, Camile Jenkins, Helena Meadows, Rebecca May (Maria Timms 83).
Leicester City: Lize Kop, Sam Tierney, Sophie Howard, Jutta Rantala, Lena Pettermann, Janice Cayman (Aileen Whelan 57), Josie Green (Courtney Nevin 62), Saori Takarada, Julie Thibaud (Deanne Rose 62), Missy Goodwin, Shannon O'Brien (Yuki Momiki 46).
3:00pm Kick Off. Sunday 14th January 2024, Don Amott Arena, Mickleover (att 900 est).