Too Close For Comfort For Leicester

Blackburn Rovers 2–3 Leicester City

by Ben Gilby

Leicester City remain a point clear at the top of the FA Women’s Championship after victory over Blackburn Rovers at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium in Bamber Bridge.

The Foxes were dominant for the vast majority of the game, but their head coach Jonathan Morgan will be hugely frustrated that his team gifted their hosts two goals through individual errors. Georgia Walters capitalised on both of these with stunning strikes for Rovers.

After early exchanges that were generally even, Leicester began to pick up the initiative when Remi Allen careered down the right flank before finding Charlotte Devlin. A further pass saw Paige Bailey-Gayle play in a cross which was put behind for a corner. Sophie Barker’s flag kick was high towards the far post and Rovers struggled to deal with it before eventually clearing.

City developed their hugely impressive patient passing game which saw some eye catching triangle patterns made. Just before the twenty minute mark, Leicester’s possession was rewarded with the lead.

Esmee De Graaf found the impressive Natasha Flint and a great one touch build-up resulted in Remi Allen playing it back to Flint who hit a shot with ease past Alex Brooks in the Rovers goal.

Blackburn responded with a couple of chances of their own, notably Emma Doyle’s effort from outside of the box going just over.

However, the score line began to finally reflect Leicester’s dominance as it became 2-0 after twenty-four minutes. Allen’s cross found Flint who turned and played a cross field effort back towards Allen. She crossed again towards Bailey-Gayle and her header deflected off Blackburn defender Kayleigh McDonald and into the net.

Rovers had an opportunity when Natasha Fenton’s free-kick from outside the box was pushed out for a corner by Kirstie Levell. The danger was cleared.

City were comfortable on the ball and maintained possession patiently until finding the right moment to pull the trigger.

As the half edged towards its conclusion, Flint turned Jade Richards and found Bailey-Gayle who in turn played in Allen. Her effort from outside the area was just over. Flint missed another opportunity on the half-time whistle after a great build-up involving Bailey-Gayle and Charlotte Devlin.

Above: Natasha Flint – celebrating one of her two goals – was hugely impressive for Leicester City at Blackburn Rovers today. Photo: @FAWomensChamp.

Leicester remained patient and on top as the second half opened. Rovers were finding it increasingly hard to get out of their half. Indeed the ball was in the net again for Leicester when Charlotte Devlin played in Remi Allen, but the assistant referee raised a flag to deny City their third.

It did not take much longer for third goal of the afternoon to arrive – but it went against the run of play and came out of nothing. Leicester keeper Kirstie Levell received a back pass, but her first touch was too heavy and went straight to Rovers’ Georgia Walters who finished brilliantly from an acute angle to put the hosts well and truly back in the game.

Leicester responded powerfully and Natasha Flint found Paige Bailey-Gayle on the right of the box but her effort came off of the bar.

The visitors just had a further sixty seconds wait to re-establish their two goal advantage when Devlin played a beautiful inch-perfect slide rule pass into the feet of Flint who found the net.

City had several chances to extend their lead further with Devlin sending two efforts narrowly wide and Sophie Barker using sublime skill to play in Bailey-Gayle, who hit the bar for the second time in fifteen minutes.

Rovers punished Leicester for missing these chances with another sensational strike from a visitor’s error. The ball was needlessly given away and Georgia Walters hit a first time effort from close to forty yards which flew into the net.

City controlled the remainder of the game rather professionally to claim the 3-2 win. However, it must be said that Blackburn deserve real credit for their efforts, particularly in the second half. Whilst both of their goals came from Leicester errors, they both went in as the result of outrageous skill from Georgia Walters.

Teams: BLACKBURN ROVERS: Brooks, Fletcher, McDonald, Richards, Stewart, Dukes, Doyle, Fenton, Hughes, Walters, Jordan. Substitutes: Newsham, Dean, Edwards, Boydell, Johnson, Hodgson.

Scorers: Walters 54, 74.

LEICESTER CITY: Levell, Smith, Tierney, Plumptre, De Graaf, Barker, Allen, Devlin, Bailey-Gayle, Paul, Flint. Substitutes: Cataldo, Riglar, Howard, Thomas, Everett, Blanchard, Fergusson, Farrow, Cain.

Scorers: Flint 18, 58. McDonald (OG) 24.

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