Southampton FC Women were crowned champions in fitting style, as they produced an electrifying display to beat Barton Rovers Ladies 8-0 on Easter Sunday and seal the Southern Region Women’s Football League Premier Division title.
In front of a record crowd of 345 at AFC Totton’s Testwood Community Stadium, Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side turned on the style as they stormed to their 17th win out of 17 in the competition this season, with the full-time whistle sparking scenes of jubilation among the players.
The result means that AFC Bournemouth CST can no longer catch them at the top of the standings, ahead of the final weekend of the campaign, ensuring Saints will be playing in Division One South West of the FA Women’s National League next term.
Saints, whose performance was as bright as the sunshine that beamed down onto the Totton pitch, showed great intent from the off, finding the net as early as the sixth minute, only for an offside flag to deny Chloe Newton, after she had diverted Phoebe Williams’s low shot past Barton keeper Carly Chilton.
Two minutes later, Newton saw a header crash back off the crossbar, having met Ella Pusey’s cross, before Ella Morris stormed through shortly after, only for Chilton to make a brilliant save to turn the ball wide.
The goal was coming, though, and it duly arrived on 15 minutes. Newton was the scorer, but it owed so much to the vision of Williams, who produced an incredible pass from deep that split both midfield and defence, setting Georgie Freeland clear. Her shot across goal was parried, but Newton, alert as ever, was on hand to convert the rebound.
With the lead in hand, Saints continued to push, creating chance after chance, with Pusey seeing an effort ruled out for offside as she finished off a low Freeland cross at the back post.
But there was nothing wrong with the goal that came in the 22nd minute, as Ella Morris raced down the right and sent a perfectly-weighted delivery in for Newton to sweep home her 30th of the season and double the hosts’ lead.
Two then became three on 31 minutes, as Ella Morris turned scorer, bursting clear from her right-back position, driving into the area and finishing low past Chilton.
Saints’ dominance continued after half-time, with Newton being denied one-on-one in the 56th minute, and Shannon Sievwright seeing a shot from outside the area slam against the post seconds later, while Pusey’s effort from the rebound was chalked off for offside.
Freeland also had one ruled out by the assistant’s flag, before Chilton produced a brilliant save to tip over a Sievwright shot that was arrowing towards the top corner in the 66th minute.
Emily Wernham, on for Newton with a little more than 20 minutes remaining, also went close, as she fired over from inside the area shortly after coming on, while fellow sub Alisha Ware was denied by a spectacular Chilton save after a smart turn and shot from 18 yards.
The fourth goal that Saints’ performance so richly deserved did finally arrive on 76 minutes, as Freeland curled in a left-footed finish from 12 yards after reacting quickly to Ware’s blocked shot inside the area.
Soon after, it was five. Captain Shelly Provan fizzed in a low cross from the left that picked out Wernham, and she produced a smart flick with the outside of her boot to send the ball into the back of the net.
With five minutes remaining, Saints added a sixth, with the finest strike of the game. Williams showed great footwork in the area to work room and unselfishly laid the ball back to Ellie Chaffe, who had just been introduced, and she sent a rocket of a left-footed shot across goal and into the far bottom corner.
And there was time yet for Chaffe to add another, as she controlled and converted calmly from a Caitlin Morris cross in the first minute of additional time.
The scoring wasn't done there, either, as a few minutes later Wernham raced through down the inside-left and finished into the far bottom corner for number eight, to cap a truly memorable afternoon for Spacey-Cale's champions.
Southampton: Kayla Rendell, Ella Morris, Caitlin Morris, Kelly Fripp, Shelly Provan (c), Shannon Sievwright, Phoebe Williams, Georgie Freeland, Ella Pusey (Alisha Ware 59), Rachel Woods (Ellie Chaffe 81), Chloe Newton (Emily Wernham 69).
Subs: Sara Luce, Chloe Podger.
Barton Rovers: Carly Chilton, Chloe Proctor, Noella Rodricks, Jade Scott, Megan Halfcree, Amelia Sergent (c), Vicky Carvill, Ellise Lowe, Phoebe Cole, Rachel Allwright, Steph Nelson.
Subs: Katie Dearling, Frankie Boekbinder, Caitlin Levy.