Southampton FC Women made a winning start to their National League Southern Premier campaign, comfortably beating visitors MK Dons 3-1.
A Lucia Kendall double provided Southampton with a first half cushion, her first a driven effort into the bottom left corner on 30 minutes, the latter a powered strike into the top right seven minutes later.
Ella Pusey’s placed finish past a diving Amy Martin increased Saints’ advantage to three on 68 minutes.
MK Dons’ solitary goal came courtesy of a Mollie Coupar penalty on 72 minutes, after Jade Bell was brought down by Ella Morris in the box.
Southampton were unfortunate not to go ahead after just two minutes, Morris doing well to reach Ciara Watling’s driven cross at the far post, but her shot only found the side netting.
Despite the early chance, MK Dons recovered swiftly and began trying to feed Georgie Giddings down Southampton’s left side, but the constant defensive pressure of Leeta Rutherford starved her of chances to advance.
However, it was Southampton who opened the scoring on the half-hour mark, Sophia Pharoah’s clever reverse pass finding the feet of a lurking Kendall just inside the box, who expertly controlled and fired a right-footed strike into the bottom left corner of Martin’s net.
After being made to wait for their first, Southampton doubled their lead just seven minutes later, a teasing through ball beyond the Dons’ backline allowing Kendall to use her pace and blast her second of the afternoon into the top right-hand corner.
Moments before halftime, Saints almost added a third, a short corner worked back to midfielder Phoebe Williams who in turn picked out an unmarked Milly Mott, who will be disappointed not to have scored from close range.
Emerging from halftime with the wind in their sails, Southampton looked to kill the game early, but almost found their lead halved after Bell muscled her way through on goal, the attacker placing her eventual shot just wide on 50 minutes.
Five minutes later saw Kendall come agonisingly close to her much-craved hat-trick, the attacker precisely calculating a looping ball before powering her fierce volley onto the foot of Martin’s left post.
Southampton’s constant pressure did see an anticipated third added on 68 minutes, substitute Ella Pusey setting off on a powerful run from deep, before sending two Dons defenders to ground with an intelligent fake-shot and casually stroking her eventual effort under the body of a diving Martin.
The number 9 almost grabbed her brace two minutes later, Pharoah’s lofted ball misjudged by the outrushing Martin who will have been relieved to see the beneficiary Pusey shoot just wide.
Somewhat controversially, MK Dons made it 3-1 from the penalty spot on 72 minutes, Ella Morris going shoulder to shoulder Bell in a manner that used excessive force, in the eyes of referee Krasimir Petrov. The consequential spot kick was tucked away casually into the bottom right corner by Coupar.
Saints did craft one last chance, Mott progressing down the right and crossing onto the head of Pusey who could only glance wide – but the performance from Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s women in their first National League Southern Premier game will be one to remember and build on.
Southampton’s attention will now be firmly fixed on next Sunday, with their second league game seeing them travel away to Plymouth Argyle.