Two goals by Levi Rathburn and a late Sarah Greenhalgh penalty saw Burnley FC Women come from 2-0 down to beat a very tough Derby County Ladies team at the Ruby Civil Arena on Sunday.
In their first game in the FA WNL Premier Division North, the Clarets women fell behind to a dominant Derby, but turned the tide of the game to achieve a momentous start to the season.
During the summer, team manager Matt Bee significantly refreshed the squad and achieved a successful pre-season run of games.
However, the challenge presented by Derby County who finished last season in joint second place on points, presented a difficult test and potentially
In the event, the Clarets started in competitive form.
New players Kelly Halligan and Levi Rathburn quickly impacted on the flanks and Nicola Worthington, Kerry Hope, Olivia Wilson and Cara Bickett slotted in well in defence.
Derby slowly started to cause problems with long balls lofted into the final third.
A failure to clear one of these resulted in a ball across goal that was struck at the post by Derby’s newly signed striker Hannah Keryakoplis.
The Clarets tried to take the game to Derby but were undone by another through ball to another new Derby signing, player of the match Ellie Gilliatt, who sprinted towards goal and shot wide of keeper Lauren Bracewell.
Ten minutes later Derby were 2-0 up when another ball lofted high across the pitch was neatly controlled by Gilliatt.
This time her cross in front of goal was cleanly struck in by Keryakoplis.
The Clarets were not giving up under the pressure.
Soon Halligan was pressing at goal, but she shot wide, and captain Greenhalgh won a corner from another dangerous run at goal.
The corner was launched in and was headed hard at goal by Worthington.
The goalkeeper saved but Rathburn was on hand to slot the rebound in at the far post.
In the closing minutes of the half, Bracewell saved with her out-stretched leg as Keryakuplis was again running in on goal.
With the second half underway, Derby again picked up the momentum but were not finding the long ball forward as threatening as the Clarets defended well.
A forward ball from the Clarets was flicked on by Kenedy Owen into the path of Rathburn.
She ran towards goal and shot, striking a defender, with the ball deflected into goal to level the score.
Rathburn was close to getting a hat-trick when she chased a through ball from Worthington.
She was blocked first by a defender, and then the goalkeeper, some way outside her area.
Rathburn was sent crashing down, but the referee correctly judged the goalkeeper intercepted momentarily earlier.
Greenhalgh collected a misplaced path and was able to run at goal, pursued by three defenders, who managed to push her wide, forcing a shot that was collected by the keeper.
There was excitement at both ends as each team tested the other.
Danielle Cooper in the Burnley defence made a stunning sliding tackle inside her box to prevent a shooting chance, and quickly Halligan broke forward on a long run before shooting wide.
Halligan soon chased another ball but found the determined Derby keeper intercepting again outside her area.
The Clarets continued to challenge the Derby goal.
Greenhalgh floated a ball to Evie Priestley close to the six-yard line. A late challenge by the keeper saw Priestley knocked to the ground and the referee
correctly awarded a penalty.
Greenhalgh stepped forward and shot the ball into the roof of the net.
The final minutes proved somewhat nervy as Derby pushed hard to equalise.
It was not to be though, as the home fans and players were jubilant at the final whistle.
On Sunday, Burnley FC Women are in League Cup action against Leeds United Ladies at the Leeds United FC training ground, Thorp Arch, Wetherby.