Padiham ready for Rovers test

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PADIHAM Ladies face the biggest game in their history when they take on Premier League Blackburn Rovers in the semi-final of the Lancashire Women’s Challenge Cup.

Gary Mills’ side are currently third in their first season in Division One North of the North West Regional Women’s League - three divisions below Rovers, who play in the FA Women’s Premier League Northern Division, following relegation from the National Division last season.

The Storks have progressed through three rounds to date - seeing off Lytham YMCA 9-0, Preston North End’s Regional League side 6-4, and in the last eight, Salford of the Northern Combination - two leagues above Padiham - 4-3.

The sides were due to meet on Sunday at Thomas Whitham College ground, but the game has been postponed a week until next Sunday, January 22nd.

And Mills can’t wait for his players’ biggest test to date: “We’ve been playing quite well since winning promotion last season, and haven’t lost yet, but this is the biggest day in our history so far, I’d say.

“It’s bigger than when we had to win to win the Lancashire FA Womens League Premier Division last season. All you can ask is that the girls put on a good performance, but it would be a superb achievement to beat Blackburn.”

There is an extra element of spice to the game, with Padiham boasting three former Rovers players in Justice Wallace (pictured), Emma Frith and Debbie Fraser-Higgins, but the Storks will hope there are no signs of ring-rust after going without a game since November - while Rovers are fresh from a win against Rochdale in the second round of the Women’s FA Cup on Sunday.

Rovers have played a strong side throughout their Lancashire Cup campaign, but whatever happens, it represents another step forward for a side who only entered the bottom rung - the Lancashire FA Womens County League - in in 2006.

They won promotion as runners-up of the Second Divisionin 2007, and were runners-up in the First Division, while reaching the semi-finals of the Lancashire FA League Cup in 2010 - before last season’s heroics.