Wolves Women 3 (Hughes 14, George 33, Morphet 49) Derby County Women 2 (Wilson 1, McCue (PEN) 68)
A tough contest at the CKW stadium in front of a lively crowd saw Wolves come out on top against Derby County with goals from Amber Hughes, Tammi George and Anna Morphet making all the difference as the teams battled it out in a top-of-the-table clash.
Derby opened the scoring in the first minute of the game through Emelia Wilson, but Amber Hughes levelled the score inside 15 minutes as a free-kick was sent into the Derby area and the forward connected with the ball and fired home from close-range.
The first-half was a tough contest between the sides, with both performing well defensively and on the attack, but Wolves came close to taking the lead before the half hour mark as a scramble in the box saw visiting keeper Sarah Morgan make a good save, stopping the ball from finding the back of the net.
Wolves did eventually take the lead through Tammi George after a brilliant run down the left from Jade Cross. Her cross into the box met George, who was able to poke it in from close-range.
The midfielder then came inches from scoring her second as a defensive mix up caused Derby’s keeper to come to the edge of her box, but George watched on as her strike rolled inches past the post.
Minutes before half-time, Wolves almost scored a third, with Beth Merrick striking from long-range, only for her effort to ricochet off the upright.
Half-time | Wolves 2-1 Derby
Shan Turner made a fine save early in the second half to deny the visitors an equaliser and minutes later, a free-kick was whipped in at the other end of the pitch, which Anna Morphet got on the end of to extend Wolves’ lead to two goals.
The chances kept coming for both sides until the visitors were awarded a penalty in the 68th minute, in which Ellie McCue converted calmly to close the gap.
Derby continued to pile on the pressure, but a strong defensive performance from Wolves proved difficult for Sam Griffith’s team; Turner sticking out her foot to make a remarkable save to deny Precious Hamilton an equaliser for Derby.
Both teams fought till the final whistle and Derby found themselves with a free-kick in a dangerous area in the final minute of the game, but fortunately for Wolves, the ball came bouncing off the post and the hosts were able to secure the three points to close the gap to the Rams at the top of the table.
Full-time | Wolves 3-2 Derby
Dan McNamara was more than pleased with his team, knowing that after not playing a league game for 92 days, it would be a tough battle.
“You’re not meant to win them,” said the boss. “92 days without a league fixture is a talking point in itself, but to then get the best team in the league, you’re not meant to win them games.
“The girls are a credit to themselves, to the team and to the football club, and I’ve got nothing but admiration for them. You see heart, desire, moments of quality, but overall, I’m speechless. What can you say about that – six points from six out of the best side in this league is a tremendous feat.
“Derby created their fair share of chances and in the first-half they could’ve had a couple, but we stayed in the game. We knew that we’d hurt them when we played them away and we knew they were going to come here and start like a train, and they did do, scoring in 40 seconds.
“This group, they don’t know when they’re beaten. They managed to come back into the game. When you’re in the 75th or 80th minute and you’re one goal ahead, it’s all about keeping the ball out of the back of your net and I think the girls did that tremendously well.”
On Anna Price’s performance
“I think a special mention has to go to the captain. She’s been in and out this season and probably hasn’t played the minutes she’s wanted to, but what a performance.
“For her to come in at the tail end of her career and put in a performance like that is remarkable.”
On Shan Turner’s crucial saves
“We grabbed a goal just after half-time and, all of a sudden, Shan makes an unbelievable save off an Ellie Gilliat header.
“That’s why we have her in goal and Beckers as a number two, because they’re the best goalkeepers around here and in big moments they pull off big saves.”
It’s a quick turnaround for Wolves this week with McNamara’s side heading to West Bromwich Albion for a Black Country derby on Wednesday.
McNamara added: “Wednesday becomes a massive game now. It’s the Black Country derby so we’ve got to focus on that.”
26/01 West Bromwich Albion (A)
30/01 AFC Fylde (A)
06/02 Hull City (A)
13/02 Huddersfield (H)
20/02 Boldmere St Michaels (A) BCC
Wolves: Turner, Cooper, Price, E. Cross, George, J. Cross, Hughes (Riley 85), Darby, Morphet, Miller (Elsmore 80), Merrick.
Derby: Morgan, Sims, Tinsley (Rai 70), McCue, Jackson, Miles, Wilson, Joyce (Hamilton 58), Formaston, Domingo, Gilliat.
Words: Meg Garbutt