London City Lionesses secured a record high second place finish on Sunday afternoon, after beating Blackburn Rovers 3-1 at Princes Park.
Going into the game, London City knew that a win would guarantee that second place spot, and so from the first whistle, they began pressing high in the search for the first goal.
The opening 10 minutes saw the Lionesses work hard to create chances around the Blackburn blockade, with Atlanta Primus’ effort in just the second minute, an early indication of what was to come.
Indeed, it was Primus who was alive to the loose ball by the Blackburn defence, squaring it to Jamie-Lee Napier out wide, whose powerfully struck shot was just inches wide.
However, 25 minutes in, Napier made it count.
After weaving her way into the box, Amy Rodgers was brought down, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Rodgers to take it, having so coolly dispatched her last penalty, against Bristol City, last weekend.
Yet this time the keeper was equal to her, guessing right and palming it away, but only into the path of Napier, who slotted it home.
The rest of the first half saw City remain dangerous, especially down the flanks, with Karin Muya constantly getting the better of her full-back and playing balls into the box.
The second half continued to see the Lionesses look to extend their lead over the visitors, who, aside from a speculative effort from Annabel Blanchard, were having difficulty causing Shae Yanez much trouble in goal.
At the other end of the pitch, Napier was once again causing havoc for the Blackburn defence, and in the 53rd minute, she got her second of the game.
The clean side-footed volley by the Scottish international was perfectly placed into the top far corner of the goal and left the Blackburn keeper scrambling.
In the following few minutes, both Napier and Rodgers had chances to grab City’s third with their well struck efforts from range, but whilst the former was saved, the latter was just wide.
But it would be Blackburn who got the next goal, with their captain, Saffron Jordan, getting on the end of the ball in by Natasha Fenton, and just sending it past Yanez.
City were determined to restore their two-goal lead though, with Primus having a great opportunity after being played in, but the keeper got down quickly to palm her effort out for a corner.
Yet with 10 minutes left on the clock, it was Rodgers who once again proved how deadly she is from range, as she fired her effort into the bottom corner, after the ball came to her following Muya being brought down in the box.
After a controlled final few minute, the London City Lionesses bagged their final three points of the season.
Speaking after the game, manager Melissa Phillips had this to say on the performance and the result:
“At this time of the year it’s just about grinding out results to secure the three points. The goal was promotion, but we're finishing as high as we possibly could, and it’s been a season to be incredibly proud of.
“As for the game, it was scrappy throughout, there wasn't a real rhythm to it, but ultimately, we were able to get a goal in the first half, which really helped to settle us down.”
Indeed, for captain Harley Bennett, she was delighted to see Napier back on the score sheet once again.
“She works so hard,” said Bennett, “she's one of the hardest-working players in practice, whether she’s training her left foot, or right foot.
“It's been weighing heavy on her, because naturally as a forward you measure yourself sometimes on scoring.
“So, I said to her before the game, ‘you're going to get one today’ and she went and got two, and really deserves them.”
The goals by Napier and Rodgers sealed second place for London City, a record high finish for the club
“It's fantastic progress,” said Phillips, “It's a real credit to our owner and chairwoman Diane Culligan, and her vision, values and always pushing the club forward.
“And we've got a fantastic group of players and staff that are highly driven to get that top spot next year.”
“Each year we've progressed and really improved as a team,” said Bennett, “both on and off the pitch to get to where we want to be, and credit to Mel and the team behind the team that do little things for us so we can do what we do on the pitch.”
That rounds up the 2021/22 season for London City Lionesses! Stay tuned for the season review, coming soon!