Keeley Davies’ terrific first-half lob was enough to earn Coventry United a richly-deserved 1-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers to confirm their place in next season’s FA Women’s Championship.
The striker profited from some poor defending the notch the only goal of a game that yielded plenty of chances but provided only one attacking moment of quality.
Blackburn had the best of the opening half hour, with Elise Hughes nodding wide and Aimee Hodgson seeing a long-range effort comfortably saved.
But it was the visitors who opened the scoring against the run of play on 38 minutes when they were gifted a shooting opportunity.
Jade Richards, trying to find her ‘keeper, headed straight into the path of Davies, who beautifully lobbed the on-rushing Alexandra Brooks from 25 yards.
Blackburn looked to hit back after the break and Sue Wood was the much busier of the two stoppers.
She made one superb save from Chelsey Dukes, acrobatically tipping a fierce shot over the bar, whilst Richards and Ellie Fletcher both failed to find the target.
But as the game wore on, Coventry looked the more likely to score next, with Davies dragging past the post from the edge of the box.
Phoebe Warner should then have settled the points when heading wide, before Destiney Troussaint forced Brooks into an excellent block with her legs after receiving Beth Merrick’s pass.
The ‘keeper also made comfortable saves from Warner, attempting a clever clip, and Davies in the closing minutes, as United closed out a landmark three points.
WHAT THEY SAID
Blackburn manager Gemma Donnelly said: “I’m disappointed. I don’t think they’ve caused us any problems, but a long ball has evaded our midfield, the centre-half has gone to nod it home to the ‘keeper and one of their players has got in-between. It came from nowhere.
“In the second half, we changed shape and matched them up and I thought we were much more positive going forwards.
“We just can’t get the ball in the back of the net.
“Sue Wood has had an excellent game for Coventry. She’s controlled from the back and slowed it down when needed.
“We knew it was going to be a really tough, messy game. They wanted to keep things in their control and absolutely had to get a result from us today.
“Whilst we didn’t need a result, we wanted to try and finish strongly and gather some momentum to finish the season off.
“I suppose that’s been our problem, certainly in the second half of the season - we’ve just had no consistency in our performances.”
Coventry goalkeeper Sue Wood said: “Everybody is as happy as can be. We’re safe. Everybody at Coventry has given a lot to the club, whether you’ve been there ten years or longer or just this year.
“Everybody is in it together and it meant a lot to win. The journey home is going to be lively! To be fair, I think of a few of them will just sleep! But it will certainly be a happy journey!
“It was a really good performance in terms of grafting with bodies on the line. We took our chance when it came and worked the ‘keeper, so we’re buzzing.
“It was a bit of a nervy first half. We were under quite a bit of pressure, but because we defended well we managed to frustrate them.
“We stuck to our game plan and worked hard and in the second half I thought we played better.”
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Alex Brooks; Chelsey Jukes, Jade Richards, Kayleigh McDonald, Hannah Coan; Ellie Fletcher, Natasha Fenton, Elise Hughes, Aimee Hodgson; Saffron Jordan, Georgia Walters
Substitutes: Emma Doyle for Hodgson 46, Leah Embley for Fletcher 69, Maria Edwards for Richards 84
Substitutes not used: Emma Bradley, Charlotte Newsham, Isobel Dean, Meg Boydell, Ria Montgomery
Coventry (4-5-1): Sue Wood; Ashlee Brown, Becky Anderson, Nikki Miles, Anna Wilcox; Destiney Toussaint, Katy Morris, Fran Orthodoxou, Phoebe Warner, Beth Merrick; Keeley Davies
Substitutes not used: Holly Chandler, Liv Clarke, Hayley Crackle, Alice Hassall, Georgia Stevens, Jenna Roberts, Alanah Mann, Amber Hughes
Goals: Davies 38
Referee: Lauren Impey