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Rotherham United made summer several signings to bolster their bid to regain their FA Women's Premier League status and their assault on this season's Midland Combination title has seen them add several players from the Super League pair of Doncaster Rovers Belles and Lincoln City.
Katie Hemming, Jenny Knibbs and Nat Shaw have signed from Belles, while Sophie Barker, Paige Crossman, Katie Davison, Zuzana Pramukova (dual-signed last season) and Nicola Stray are the former Lincoln players in the squad.
On the evidence of their first home game, a 5-2 victory over Coventry Copsewood, Rotherham will be very much in the mix next spring.
Rotherham made the early running. Shaw crossed, but Pramukova could not direct her header on target. Davison's header set Shaw goalwards and she fired just wide. Then, Amy Pollock had a free kick turned over by Natasha Smithers in the Copsewood goal.
Rotherham eventually got the goal their play deserved on 40 minutes when Zuzana Pramukova got forward and netted with a low angled shot for the left of the area.
The breakthrough achieved, Rotherham then added two more goals before the break. Charlie Whiteley's kick was knocked on and Shaw got clear of the Copsewood rearguard, sidestepped Smithers and slotted home.
The last meaningful action in injury time was a left sided corner by Pollock, met by Shelley Futter at the near post several yards with Shaw applying the final touch for her second.
While much of the first half play saw Rotherham press forward, Copsewood could have had a couple of goals themselves. Nicola Foskett was the main threat for the visitors, her pace enabling her to outstrip the home defence, but fortunately for Rotherham, Foskett was unable to display the accuracy in the finish that had made her Copsewood's top scorer last season.
The first meaningful action of the second half saw Pramukova felled by a challenge from Heidi Sloan. It was a very close call with the hosts certain a spot kick should have been awarded, but referee Rob Allen gave the benefit of the doubt to the defender, a decision which seems justifiable when one views the photo (top right) just before Pramukova is tumbled over.
Copsewood enjoyed a greater share of play following the interval and they had an excellent chance to give themselves hope of a possible stirring comeback when they were awarded a penalty. However, Amanda Whalley's spot kick hit a post and rebounded across goal before being cleared.
It was a wake up call for Rotherham. Barker then proceeded to put the outcome, though not the final score, beyond all possible doubt with two goals in quick succession.
She weaved her way past three defenders before slipping the ball past Smithers to make it 4-0 on 75 minutes. Then, five minutes later, Hemming won a mid-air challenge with to put Barker clear and unlike a similar position with Foskett in the first half, this move ended with the ball in the back of the net.
Some of the gloss of Rotherham's display was dulled when Jodie McGuckin reduced the arrears within 60 seconds, while Foskett finally got her name on the scoresheet with the last action of the game. She deserved her goal which was a virtual carbon copy of Pramukova's.
A final score of 5-2 was a replica of Copsewood's visit back in January, while the earlier meeting last season was in the opening round of fixtures with that game also producing seven goals, Copsewood winning 4-3.
Rotherham United: Charlie Whiteley, Katie Davison, Nicola Stray, Amy Pollock, Shelley Futter, Rachel Rutherford, Paige Crossman, Sophie Barker, Nat Shaw, Katie Hemming, Zuzana Pramukova. Subs: Jenny Knibbs, Jaydene Venus, Nat Mason, Charlotte Spencer, Klare Osborne.
Copsewood (Coventry): Natasha Smithers, Marsha Towey, Heidi Sloan, Rebecca Knights, Samantha Taylor, Jade Ogle, Amanda Whalley, Zoe Harle, Leonna McCook, Jodie McGuckin, Nicola Foskett. Subs: Lauren Middleton, Chantelle Davis.
(Report by Julian Barker)
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