Southampton clinched the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier Division in the perfect setting, in front of a record crowd and against their bitter rivals Portsmouth at St Mary’s Stadium.
The home side were without Caitlin Morris, Phoebe Williams and Megan Collett. but are boasting a potent forward line with Ella Pusey, Sophia Pharoah and Lucia Kendall. Between them, they have scored 59 goals in all competitions this season.
Portsmouth were without defender Jazz Younger due to recovery from concussion recovery protocols. Captain Danielle Rowe returned but started on the bench.
The teams entered the pitch with much fanfare and were cheered on by a crowd of 5,145, a record-breaking attendance for the women’s team.
In the early stages, both sides were positive going forward but it was Portsmouth’s keeper Hannah Haughton that called into action first. Pharoah playing in Pusey but Haughton was alert and able to come out and claim.
As the half progressed Southampton asserted their dominance over their rivals, who were unable to retain possession and putting themselves under unnecessary pressure.
There was a brief moment of worry for Portsmouth boss Jay Sadler when Haughton went down and the game was stopped while she received treatment. To Sadler’s relief, she was able to continue as there was no replacement goalkeeper on the bench.
This break allowed Portsmouth to regroup and they found themselves pushing forward even if they failed to test Kayla Rendell in the Saints goal. The blues would have been pleased to have gone into half time at 0-0 but with a minute to go of the half Sophia Pharoah smashed her side ahead with a wonderful strike that cannoned in off the post.
This is the first goal conceded in 314 minutes of football since the beginning of April.
If Portsmouth had hopes of getting back into the game then those hopes were dented two minutes into the second half when Saints doubled their lead. Pusey was initially denied by Haughton and then Evie Gane blocked well from Pharoah but Lucia Kendall scored at the third time of asking with a shot from outside the box.
The introduction of Dani Rowe and Danielle Lane helped Portsmouth regroup but their quest to get back into the game and put pressure on their opponents was made harder by persistently giving the ball away, although credit should also go to Saints for their energetic pressing.
In the 84th minute, Portsmouth thought that they did manage to pull one back through a thunderous strike from Emma Jones, but her effort rattled the post instead of hitting the back of the net.
Southampton we able to withstand further pressure from Portsmouth and the referee’s whistle sparked joyous celebration from the players, staff and fans. This victory hands Southampton the National League Southern Premier trophy however doesn’t guarantee promotion to the Championship that will be decided in a play off between Saints and Nothern Premier League winners, Wolverhampton Wanderers on May 21st.