Lena Petermann, Janice Cayman and substitute Deanne Rose were all on the scoresheet, alongside an own goal, to wrap up a convincing 4-0 victory for the visiting Foxes at Don Amott Arena, as they kicked off 2024 in style.
Willie Kirk promised to field a strong line-up against the FA Women's National League Northern Premier Division side and was true to his word, handing a debut to January signing Saori Takarada, who started in midfield alongside captain Sam Tierney.
Beginning their cup campaign at the fourth round stage in Mickleover, facing third-tier Derby in their first competitive fixture of the New Year, Leicester were strong favourites heading into the game. But despite the two divisions between the pair, the Ewe Rams held their own early on, with the artificial surface proving to be somewhat of a leveller in the opening stages.
A scramble to get the ball over the line.
It took nine minutes for the Foxes to carve out the first opportunity, Jutta Rantala slipping in Petermann who tried to flick the ball beyond the onrushing Anna Draper. The 'keeper made herself big to save, however. Rantala soon took aim herself from a free-kick positioned 30 yards from goal but Draper was able to make a comfortable stop.
A loose ball then popped up for Cayman to strike narrowly wide as Leicester continued to work the ball, waiting for the spaces to open up. City might have found the opener from Takarada's superb through ball, which Petermann latched on to, striking straight at the 'keeper.
The breakthrough took 27 minutes to arrive, but Petermann finally had her goal from Rantala's corner, which was headed onto the post by the German forward before the ball bounced in without another touch as Tierney tried to force it over the line herself.
Eager to establish an unassailable lead, Petermann forced County's 'keeper into a smart save low to her left, prior to Tierney racing through minutes later, with Draper's outstretched foot keeping City's skipper out.
Cayman was among the goalscorers in Mickleover.
The chances had started to flow prior to the break. Petermann set up Shannon O'Brien, who cut inside and saw Draper once again equal to her curling effort to keep the scoreline at 0-1.
The second half began in a similar fashion, Rantala inches away by hitting the crossbar before Tierney's cross was met by Missy Goodwin; the winger unable to turn it home at the back post.
Another debutant entered the field in Yuka Momiki and instantly made an impact, crossing for Cayman to turn the ball home first time into the bottom corner, doubling the advantage on 57 minutes.
Off the bench to net her first goal for the Club.
The Japan international was a real menace for the tiring Derby backline, curling a shot wide before Julie Thibaud laid one off for the attacker to strike into the wall. Several substitutes entered the fray, including Rose, who emphatically fired in the third, on the volley from close range, with just over 20 minutes to play - her first ever LCFC goal.
Momiki's 74th-minute free-kick led to the fourth and final goal, taking a deflection off Charlotte Steggles on its way into the net, though early strikes had already proved decisive, with Lize Kop untroubled in the City goal to earn a clean sheet.
Momiki could have had a hat-trick of assists had her corner been turned home by Sophie Howard, but the Scotland international could only head wide of the target. It mattered not, however, with Kirk's side in the draw for the fifth round.
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