Burnley’s hopes of reaching the Lancashire FA Mercure Dunkenhalgh Challenge Cup Final were dashed by 12-time winners Blackburn Rovers at Padiham’s Ruby Civil Arena on Sunday.
The Rovers team posed a great challenge to the Clarets from the outset with their intensity of play and precision passing.
The Clarets defended well but moments of real class resulted in them conceding against their most formidable opponents to date.
Ahead of the game, local rivalries added to the interest and helped fuel a crowd exceeding 550 who came to watch the encounter.
The Clarets were first on the offensive when a string of long passes picked out Lizzy Hamer, but she was snuffed out by a defender who headed a high bounce back to the keeper.
Rovers pushed forward to test the Clarets defence and demonstrated their considerable ability but found Burnley determined in their task to protect keeper Lauren Bracewell’s goal.
The Clarets absorbed the attacking threats well and Rovers often switched flanks to try and penetrate through the well-marshalled defence.
Breakouts were frequent enough to give some respite but lone Clarets striker and sponsors, MCK Contracts Limited player of the match, Evie Priestley, was running tirelessly to collect passes and finding the Rovers defenders were closing her down from all angles.
The Clarets had prevented Rovers from having any strong chances on goal but on 28 minutes a blocked shot deflected to the edge of the area, where striker Lagan Makin superbly controlled and powerfully shot at goal.
The ball dipped under the crossbar to open the scoring and end Bracewell’s seven-game run of clean sheets.
The Clarets did respond, Leah Embley raided forward eventually winning a corner. She took the kick, launching the ball towards the back post where the Rovers goalkeeper caught the ball at full stretch.
Embley was later flipped over on another run towards goal, thus gaining a free kick just outside the box, but the Clarets couldn’t capitalise.
Rovers continued to pressure the Clarets and had a couple more shots at goal, but these were either deflected wide or missed the mark before Bracewell had to make a routine type save in the final minute of the half.
As the second half got underway, the Clarets reverted to a more attacking formation and quickly pressed forward, forcing defensive pass backs from Rovers defenders.
Blackburn retaliated though, and Bracewell was called into action to make a good save from Jessica Holbrook and later another shot flew narrowly wide.
Priestley, Embley and Nicola Shirtcliffe all pushed forward for the Clarets, but were unable to profit, and soon action at the other end saw the Clarets concede a second goal as a ball across the edge of the area picked out prolific striker Natasha Flint, who shot hard and low, leaving Bracewell no chance.
The Clarets did not give up and soon Embley appeared to be tripped as she ran at the visitor’s goal, but the referee waved away her protests, and again the visitors broke forward and Bracewell was tested, making a diving save.
Rovers completed the scoring in their dominant display when a cross picked out Alex Taylor who volleyed in a shot close to the far post.
The Clarets pushed hard to try and reduce the deficit and were unlucky when Hamer intercepted and headed on to Priestley who shot over with the keeper was off her line.
On Sunday Burnley FC Women entertain Liverpool Feds at Padiham, kick-off 2 p.m. Adults £2, and free for children aged 16 and under.