Southampton FC Women finished their league campaign in style, comfortably defeating Cardiff City 4-1 at Snows Stadium.
Saints cruised into a 2-0 lead by the 29th minute, Ciara Watling scoring Saints’ second 13 minutes after Katie Rood notched the first. Cori Williams had the chance to halve Cardiff’s deficit in the 32nd minute from the penalty spot, but dragged her effort wide of Kayla Rendell’s right post.
The second half was equally as exciting, Southampton’s third coming courtesy of an own goal by Cardiff’s Caitlin Williams, before Megan Collett steered home her driven effort from a tight angle for four. Isobel Newns would grab a consolation for the visitors five minutes from time, but there was no denying Southampton all three points on the day.
In front of a bumper 503 strong crowd at Snows Stadium, Saints raced out of the blocks, their first chance falling to the feet of Leeta Rutherford following Shelly Provan’s corner, but with her back to goal, the defender couldn’t keep her half-volley down.
One minute later and the in-form Alisha Ware would register her first attempt, cutting inside from the left before firing a whipped, right-footed effort goalward which Laura O’Sullivan did well to palm away at full stretch. Following in was Collett, but the youngster, amid some last-ditch pressure from Cardiff’s retreating defence, couldn’t hit the target from close range.
Responding to the home sides aggressive start, Cardiff launched their first attack in the seventh minute, Ellie Sargent threaded through down the left, cutting in and trying her luck as Ware did moment’s earlier, but her effort was swiftly stopped by Rutherford who blocked bravely.
Eager to grab themselves an early advantage, Southampton’s next opportunity in the 12th minute would follow some terrific interplay between Rood and Ware, the latter flicking a clever ball behind her for the incoming Watling to strike, but her effort lacked precision and was turned away by the boot of O’Sullivan, keeping her side in the fight.
Although, that wouldn’t be the case for much longer, Ware’s tricky feet once again proving a handful down the left for Cardiff as the winger made her way to the byline and fired a wicked ball across the box which the arriving Rood knocked home gratefully.
Determined to stay in the battle, Cardiff earned a free-kick on the edge of the box in the 18th minute following a foul from Rosie Parnell. Kelly Issac would step up, the attacker arrowing her well struck effort to the left of Southampton’s wall and onto Kayla Rendell’s crossbar. A warning to those in red and white that this game was far from won.
That being said, Southampton’s ruthlessness in attack was on show once again as the clock struck 29, live wire Ware angling another, delicious low ball across goal which Watling instinctively steered into the bottom corner. 2-0.
At this point, many in Snows Stadium began to relax a little ahead of half time, but Cardiff continued their refusal to be overrun. A lapse in defensive concentration from the home side allowed Sargent to sprint into the box, the attacker subsequently hauled down by Parnell before she could shoot. Penalty, according to Steven Walsh.
Williams would take on the responsibility, but dragged her spot-kick horribly wide of Rendell’s right post, ensuring the hosts lead remained unscathed going into the break.
With the score delicately poised at 2-0, both sides started the second 45 in a more timid fashion. However, Cardiff would be the first to threaten, substitute Newns breaking free and rounding the outrushing Rendell, but her eventual effort toward Southampton’s vacant net was weak, allowing Collett to clear off the line.
Cardiff, to their credit, were continuing to play some very good football, which made Saints’ third goal a very hard pill to swallow for the away support. Provan’s corner was initially spilled by the goalkeeper, resulting in a lashed clearance from her defence which proceeded to rebound off an unsuspecting Caitlin Williams and into her own net on 62 minutes.
Spurred on by their third, Southampton quickly grabbed a fourth, Collett, who had enjoyed a brilliant game at right-back, driving toward goal before firing her low, right-footed effort into the bottom corner from a tight angle.
The attacking football from both sides had been end-to-end all afternoon, and it wasn’t done yet, Newns sneaking in to poke her effort beyond the unsuspecting Rendell with five minutes to play. A consultation goal, but one which Marieanne Spacey-Cale will be disappointed to give away.
Her side would go after a fifth in the 87th minute though, one which they would have found through Gerogie Freeland’s driven effort from distance had it not been for the hand of O’Sullivan, who tipped the ball brilliantly onto her crossbar.
A brilliant win and a fitting way to end a brilliant season for Southampton, who now turn their attention to a crucial league play-off final against Wolves on May 21st.