Women's Report: Blackburn 2-1 Saints

2023-24/Women's Team/Barclays Women's Championship/Blackburn (A)/A25I1271_gokdxa

Southampton FC Women were narrowly beaten on the road against Blackburn Rovers on Women’s Football Weekend.

The hosts raced into a two goal lead with 12 minutes on the clock, thanks to two solo efforts from winger Meg Hornby.

Molly Pike pulled a goal back before the break, but Saints trailed and had work to do in the second half.

Despite dominating the second period, and launching everything at Rovers late on, Saints had to settle for a narrow defeat.

There was just one change to the side as Katie Wilkinson dropped out and was replaced by Alice Griffiths.

Marieanne Spacey-Cale made one change to her side. (Photos: Isabelle Field)

In front of a record home crowd, Blackburn came out of the blocks fastest and were immediately on top.

A looping header from towering defender Jade Richards set the tone in just the second minute as the chance dropped onto the roof of the net.

Rovers went one better in the fifth minute to open the scoring through a solo effort from Meg Hornby, who picked up the ball in Saints’ half and charged forward at pace before angling her shot into the bottom corner.

Hornby, and Blackburn, weren’t finished in their early dominance as the tricky winger doubled the lead with another solo strike, this time cutting in from the right to curl the ball over Kayla Rendell and into the top corner.

It took Saints until the 20th minute to fashion their first chances, with the best coming from a corner that Atlanta Primus nodded down but a red shirt couldn’t connect with. 

Another corner caused trouble on the half hour as Paige Peake’s deep inswinger reached Alice Griffiths at the far post, whose header was held at the second attempt by Alex Brooks.

Saints reduced the deficit in the 38th minute through Molly Pike, who slid in to connect with Ella Morris’s lobbed pass and divert the ball into the bottom corner.

Molly Pike slides in to score.

Saints were firmly in the ascendancy after their poor start, and Pike almost found the leveller before the break.

A through ball set the forward free and she dinked her shot over Brooks, but the effort rolled agonisingly wide.

Just two minutes into the second half, Blackburn almost punished Saints with some penalty area pinball that was cleared before a vital touch could the hosts’ lead again.

However, it was one way traffic from then on as Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side threw everything at the Blackburn back line.

Three chances in close succession came as Ella Morris met a low cross that was saved at point blank range by Brooks, before Paige Peake saw her goalbound corner tipped away and a header kept out moments later.

Morris was again an attacking threat and came close with a flicked header that dropped just wide of the far post.

Saints kept knocking on the door.

The only other chance of the second period for Rovers came with a speculative shot by Lucy Shepherd, who attempted to catch out Rendell from long range but couldn’t hit the target.

Saints dominated possession but were nullified as the game entered a quiet spell whilst both sides made changes.

It was inside the final ten minutes when Saints launched another tirade on the Blackburn goal with a series of dangerous deliveries.

Sophia Pharoah’s header couldn’t find the back of the net before, in the 87th minute, Pike’s flying volley was kept out by the save of the game as Brooks tipped the ball away at full stretch.

An agonising end to the game saw Saints beaten as they drop to fourth in the table with three games left to play.

Blackburn: Brooks, Murphy (Seed 83), Coan, Toland, Richards (captain), Williams (Walters 66), Hornby (Thomas 83), Taylor, Shepherd (Dahou 77), Hutchings (Chandarana 77), Robertson.

Subs not used: Salgado, Doyle, Knox.

Goals: Hornby 5, 12.

Saints: Rendell, Collett (Lloyd-Smith 76), Mott, Peake, Purfield, Primus, Griffiths (Thompson 82), Morris, Kendall (captain), Pike, Pharoah.

Subs not used: Haaland, Rafferty, Milne, Wynne,.

Goals: Pike 38.

Attendance: 1591.