Goals from Sophia Pharoah and Ella Pusey helped Southampton FC Women navigate a tricky National League Southern Premier fixture at Bridgwater United on Sunday.
Sophia Pharoah opened the scoring for Saints at the end of a frustrating first half in difficult conditions, finding the far corner in stoppage time for a deserved lead.
Bridgwater’s fightback in the second half was stopped in its tracks on 66 minutes by Ella Pusey, who struck a sweet volley into the far corner.
On a cold, windy and wet afternoon in Bridgwater, birthday girl Marieanne Spacey-Cale opted for a mixture of youth and experience with her eleven.
Leeta Rutherford came back into the side as Shannon Sievwright dropped out, whilst Pusey was this time partnered by Lucia Kendall up top.
As to be expected with a pitch as stodgy as this, there were lots of stoppages to play. Bridgwater’s Georgia Evans needing treatment after just three minutes of action.
Rutherford had Saints’ opening chance of the game on seven minutes, the ball falling to her on the edge of the box before her first-time strike was well tipped over by keeper Beth Howard.
Next was a strike for Kendall from a similar range, this effort not proving as troublesome to Howard as it cleared the crossbar.
The pressure kept coming from the visitors; Shelly Provan’s cross just cleared at the back post, before Milly Mott laid off Sophia Pharoah, whose shot was blocked behind.
Bridgwater’s first chance soon followed on the 15-minute mark, Meesha Dudley-Jones with a speculative effort from range which Kayla Rendell saw over her crossbar.
Another opening fell the home side’s way ten minutes later, as Daisy Ackerman looked to feed Nicky Potts. The latter’s shot eventually over the bar.
As the pitch worsened the chances for both sides began to clear up, first touches and low passes becoming harder to control.
An opportunity would arise for Saints via an unlikely source; Pharoah’s deflected shot looping up into the path of Pusey, who one-on-one, saw her effort tipped behind by Howard.
There was another chance for Pusey from the following corner, the number nine with a header at the front post which somehow missed the target as half-time loomed.
A third chance in quick succession fell to the Saints striker on 43 minutes. Howard coming out quickly to deny Pusey once more.
Finally, in first half stoppage time, Saints profited from their chances.
An opening arose on the right-hand side seeing Pharoah break through into space, before the forward coolly slotted past the keeper into the far corner.
It was almost two in as many minutes for Saints and Pharoah, only for Howard to save her side once again just before the interval.
Into the second and the hosts stepped up their efforts in search of an equaliser.
With Saints penned in Bridgwater enjoyed most of the possession, unable to find that final pass behind a stubborn yellow defence.
It would take a moment of magic to make it two and that’s exactly what Pusey came up with on 66 minutes.
After a frustrating half for the forward she finished her latest chance with real confidence, pulling the ball down from the sky and finding the far corner with a sweet lob.
Despite early possession it took until the 75th minute for Bridgwater to have their first shot of the second half, Leah Burridge letting fly from range with a strike that proved easy pickings for Rendell.
Despite that chance the second Saints goal certainly knocked the wind out of the Bridgwater sails, who were struggling to test Rendell as the game wore on.
Pusey could’ve had a second inside the final ten minutes, twisting a turner inside the box but a backtracking defender getting a vital foot in at the death.
Ultimately it was a thoroughly deserved three points for Saints, who had to come through tricky conditions as well as tough opposition to get the win.
Next up is another meeting with league rivals Ipswich Town, this time travelling to Goldstar Ground in the FA Cup on Sunday 27th February.