Southampton 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
By Darrell Allen at Edgeley Park (22/5/22)
Above: Southampton celebrate after their win against Wolverhampton Wanderers, securing Championship football next season. Photo: Saints FC Women.
Southampton secured promotion to the Tier Two FA Women’s Championship with a narrow victory over a Wolves side reduced to ten players in the FA Women’s Championship Play-Off Final at Stockport County FC’s Edgeley Park.
In a game that was labelled Judgement Day by the league and with a prize of a place the second tier of a pyramid, the stakes could not be higher.
The early action saw Sophie Pharoah find Lucia Kendell who tried to lob the keeper but Shan Turner in the Wolves goal got her fingers to it to turn the ball away for a corner. The subsequent corner was delivered well but then cleared away by Wolves.
Southampton continued their early dominance of the game with Alice Griffths shooting from long range before Emma Cross brought down Pharoah but the penalty appeals were waved away by referee Lauren Impey.
Wolves began to get a foothold in the game after surviving an early onslaught but were restricted to a few half shots that were blocked by a strong Southampton defence.
In a fast and frenetic Championship Play-Off Final both teams were very watchable with Wolves next to roll the dice, Amber Hughes had two shots followed by an initial third terrific curling shot into Kayla Rendell’s hands.
Despite the end-to-end nature of the match, Southampton continued to look more prominent as Kendall floated a delightful free-kick into the box before Pharoah headed wide.
The deadlock was broken when Pharorah cleverly rounded Turner and slotted the ball into the net to spark wild scenes amongst the large contingent of Southampton supporters who had made the very long trip from the South Coast.
The Saints attacking three of Alisha Ware, Sophia Pharoah and Alice Griffths seemed to have communication on point all afternoon as their awareness of each other and timing of runs, and good link-up play was a key element of why Southampton were so successful.
The Saints had a golden chance to double their lead when Kendall’s free-kick found Griffiths, the net was waiting to bulge but she put what looked a certain goal wide.
Tensions began to flare and what was on the line in this game was evident when Amber Hughes and Megan Collett clashed with some then verbal exchanges but the brilliant match officials did well to calm everything down.
Wolves ended the half well with a good spell of pressure although disaster did strike just before half time when Kelly Darby fouled Ware and was shown her second yellow and dismissed. It was a silly challenge and the disappointment etched across her face when she left the pitch and some water bottles received the brunt of her anger as she left the field the play.
Southampton led at the break and it was theirs to lose in the second 45 with the player advantage.
Credit to Wolves they came out for the second half and were the better team with some confident passing and early corners and free kicks showing sign of their second-half intent.
Southampton nearly put themselves into trouble when a sloppy goal kick by Rendell found Merrick but she fired wide. Indeed, the South Coast side were leading a dangerous existence despite the player advantage as both teams reached for reinforcements from the bench to add fresh legs to this contest.
Substitute Katie Rood headed wide before having a curling shot wide.
The Wolves behind the goal gave their team a rally making terrific noise as they sensed there was time to force extra time. Their team created late pressure but Jade Cross missed the best chance to draw level.
Late rallies of the famous song ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ rang out from the 700-strong travelling contingent from the South Coast as they helped see their team over the line.
This was a fantastic contest ended with Southampton securing promotion after only one season in the Southern Premier and next season they will play Tier 2 football in the FA Women’s Championship.
Credit to Wolves who were outstanding in that second half period but Southampton stood strong, defended well, and got themselves the promotion they deserved over the course of the season effort and these 90 minutes on Judgement Day.
Player of the Match: Sophia Pharoah (Southampton)
Teams: SOUTHAMPTON: Rendell, Pagnell, Rafferty, Freeland, Ware, Pharoah, Kendall, Mott, Griffiths, Rutherford, Collett. Substitutes: Morris, Pusey, Luce, Rood, Watling.
Scorer: Pharoah 22′.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS: Turner, Cooper, Price, Cross, Gauntlett, George, Cross, Hughes, Darby, Morphet, Merrick. Substitutes: Dicken, Miller, Walker, Elsmore, Burridge.
Referee: Lauren Impey.