Southampton FC Women win the Southern Premier Division in style after goals from Sophia Pharoah and Lucia Kendall sealed an impressive 2-0 victory over rivals Portsmouth at St Mary’s Stadium.
Despite an impressive first-half display that yielded countless chances, Saints looked set to go into the break without a lead, but a thunderous effort from Pharoah in the 44th minute ensured a deserved advantage.
Spurred on by their first, Saints doubled their lead quickly after the interval, courtesy of Kendall’s pinpoint strike which ensured a 2-0 victory over their most bitter of rivals.
To the backdrop of more than 5,145 raucous fans at St Mary’s Stadium, a record-breaking attendance form the women’s team, Saints started brightly, Pharoah feeding Ella Pusey in the 5th minute, but the striker was just beaten to the ball by an alert Hannah Haughton between the Pompey sticks.
Moments later and architect Pharoah would be at it again, releasing Alisha Ware down the left whose subsequent searching ball looked for the feet of Pusey, but not before Rosie McDonnell could intercept. Nevertheless, attacking opportunities seemed to be presenting themselves regularly.
Starting the game impressively, Pharoah would soon prove dangerous again, using the inside of her right boot to disguise a perfectly weighted ball amid a crowd of Pompey defensive bodies into the path of Pusey on 11 minutes. This time the attacker got there first, fainting to the right in attempt to round Haughton, but the goalkeeper was wise to the move and smothered the ball bravely.
As the noise of the home crowd grew, so did the relentless attacking onslaught from Saints, Kendall the next to go close, her curling effort just drifting just wide of the right post a minute after Pusey’s presentable chance.
Despite an opportunity to regroup with manager Jay Sadler while their goalkeeper received treatment, Pompey found themselves defending Pusey once again in the 24th minute, this time the striker meeting Georgie Freeland’s whipped ball at the far post, guiding her header agonisingly onto the post. Incredibly, the encounter remained goalless.
Ten minutes would go by before Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side enjoyed their next opportunity, Freeland trying to find space inside the box amid pressure from Evie Gane, who seemed to block the winger’s eventual right-footed effort with her hand. No penalty, according to referee Michael Butcher.
Approaching the final minutes of the first 45, Portsmouth finally began to show some offensive threat, Emma Jones’s free-kick from the left whipped towards Samantha Quayle, whose header looped toward goal, but not with enough precision to alarm Rendell, who watched it drop safely wide of her right post.
Frustrated not to be ahead, Southampton prepared for an important second-half in which they could not be so wasteful. However, one more chance would fall the way of Pharoah before the interval.
And what an unbelievable strike followed, the midfielder receiving from Kendall before powering a ferocious, right-footed effort from outside the box which clipped Haughton’s right post before slamming into her net. An incredible goal, and one which Southampton had truly earned.
Having lost just once in all competitions since the start of February, Portsmouth now found themselves staring down the barrel of a difficult defeat to their closest rivals, and one which would ensure those in red and white a place in the play-offs against Wolverhampton Wanderers come late May.
That statement looked to be even more concrete come the 47th minute, Pusey first denied at close-range by Haughton, who saved with her feet, before Pharoah’s follow-up effort was blocked. Kendall would be the next to pick up the scraps and try her luck, and did so brilliantly, lifting her effort perfectly into the far corner of the unoccupied net from outside the box, to the backdrop of Southampton’s jubilant support. 2-0.
In fact, it could have been three just four minutes later, Leeta Rutherford’s header expertly saved at point-blank-range following Kendall’s in-swinging free-kick, before further Haughton heroics kept out Ware’s curling effort, the stopper just about keeping her side in the fight.
Carving their first real chance of the second period, Jones tried her luck from inside the box after some good work down the left-flank by Rosie McDonnell, but what her shot offered in power it lacked in placement, allowing Rendell to hold with relative ease. With their advantage seemingly in safe hands, 28 minutes now separated Saints from league glory.
Showing fine composure to see out 22 of those minutes comfortably, Southampton almost found their lead suddenly halved in the 84th, the dangerous Jones striking her left-footed half-volley from just outside the box firmly against Rendell’s left post, momentarily reducing the stopper to a spectator. However, amid the heads in hands and sighs of frustration from those in blue, Saints edged closer.
Danielle Lane would try her luck in the dying seconds, her well-struck effort from range tipped over by the alert Rendell, keeping her clean sheet intact.
A great save, and one which would prove the last notable action of the match, Butcher sounding his whistle moments later, affirming Southampton’s 2-0 victory on the day and deserved league glory under the lights of a joyous St Mary’s.