Southampton are to face bitter rivals Portsmouth in the Hampshire FA Senior Cup final, following a resounding 3-0 victory over neighbours Bournemouth at Snows Stadium.
Leading on from their impressive 1-0 league win over MK Dons last weekend, Saints pounced on early opportunities in the first-45, gaining a two goal advantage thanks to a wonder strike from Katie Rood, before Becki Bath turned into her own net following Ella Morris’s dangerous freekick.
Allowed to take it slightly easier in the second-half given their lead, a further goal from Georgie Freeland wrapped up proceedings in style, and ensured Southampton’s place in the Senior Cup final alongside South Coast rivals Portsmouth, who prevailed over Moneyfields 2-1.
Bournemouth, who also made a strong start to 2022 after beating Chesham United 2-0 in their last match, started the game well, exerting constant pressure on their opposition from the early stages which proved rewarding, though visibly draining.
With that in mind, Southampton began to find more joy as the game went on and their opponents tired, playing more of the intricate, passing football fans have become accustomed to at Snows Stadium.
The first to take full advantage was the abundantly talented Rood in the ninth minute, who, following some neat play down the left wing, drove inside on her right foot before arrowing an effort which speared over the head of a helpless Sam Chrippes and into her top left corner. A sublime strike to open the scoring.
Just eight minutes later Southampton doubled their advantage thanks to a brilliant freekick delivery from Ella Morris, the fullback curling in a sumptuous cross which arched dangerously between the defensive line and goalkeeper, leaving Bath no choice but to head into her own net.
Eager to conjure up a response, the Cherries registered their first effort on Sara Luce’s goal in the 21st minute, Elle Elkins firing over from just outside the area. A reminder to those in red and white to stay alert.
In the 20 minutes that followed the game calmed significantly, Bournemouth doing well to stem the flow of Southampton’s attacking play, while also carving another opportunity from the right foot of Katie James, who saw her low effort from a tight angle stopped by a strong hand from Luce.
Despite a slight resurgence from the visitors, Saints entered the halftime break in complete control, but fully aware of the importance of the next goal.
The first chance of the second period fell the way of Rood once more, the attacker using her pace to latch onto a deep through ball beyond the Cherries defensive line, but her finish lacked the precision necessary to evade the body of an outrushing Chrippes, who did well to smother the New Zealander’s attempt on 57 minutes.
However, with the pressure mounting, Saints found their much-wanted third just five minutes later, Morris once again making excellent progress down the right wing, before her eventual cross was deflected into the path of an incoming Freeland, who showed fine composure to smash the opportunity home from close proximity.
By this point, with Bournemouth’s resolve truly broken and the home side attacking with real confidence, it seemed likely Saints would add a few more before Darren Cooley’s final whistle, Ciara Watling and substitute Sophia Pharoah both going close in the minutes between the 65th and 75th, before Morris’s bullet header was spectacularly saved five minutes from time.
In reality, that would be all, but Southampton’s professional performance was one to be proud of, given this is just their second game back after a month off over Christmas.
Despite the excitement of a cup final against Portsmouth, Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side will now switch their attention to Wednesday evening, when they face Chichester & Selsey in a crucial league encounter. Kick off at 7:45pm, Snows Stadium.