Marieanne Spacey-Cale's Southampton FC Women celebrated a stunning domestic double at AFC Totton on Sunday as goals from Pheobe Williams and Ella Pusey set up a 2-0 win over Oxford City Ladies in the League Cup Final.
A dogged Oxford side threatened to spoil the Saints party in front of a sold-out Testwood Community Stadium crowd of over 500 before Williams and Pusey's timely second-half interventions cued scenes of jubilation for the second time in the space of a month.
Saints headed into the game as firm favourites - having won the Southern Region Women’s Football League Premier Division with a perfect record of 19 wins from 19 games - but did not have it all their own way in difficult conditions and were made to fight for every ball by a side they had beaten by six earlier in the season.
Chloe Newton might have eased Saints fans' nerves considerably earlier than necessary had she got better contact on Georgie Freeland’s low cross from the right inside 10 minutes, a rare opportunity in a competitive and intensely fought opening quarter.
Pusey’s long-range drive aside and a spilled cross by Oxford’s Nat Morris aside however, Saints were made to be patient and were kept at arm’s length despite dominating possession and territory.
The best of their early work was coming down the left - with skipper Shelly Provan, a calming influence at full-back – and it was from that side that the half’s best opportunity came just after the half-hour mark.
Rachel Woods’s change of pace earned a yard of space to cross for Pusey who smartly guided a shot goal wards on the slide only to be denied by the diving Morris at the near post.
The Oxford ‘keeper was busy again moments later, plunging on a loose ball after Provan’s cross had eluded both Newton and Pusey, triggering an uncharacteristic moment’s panic in the home defence.
By the start of the second half, the final’s rhythm was firmly set: Saints probing for an opening, Oxford standing firm and defending for their lives.
Once more, they found Morris in inspired form. A rush from her line stole Provan’s through pass from under the toes of Pusey before superbly pushing out Freeland’s stinging shot from the edge of the area.
Freeland came again on the hour mark, arching a half-volley onto the crossbar with Morris, this time, beaten. The pressure soon told and was released in style by Williams on 61 minutes.
Ella Morris escaped down the right and picked out the midfielder’s marauding run into the box, the Saints number eight confidently smashing low into the corner via a touch from the goalkeeper.
The relief was plain to see and allowed Spacey-Cale’s side to play with even greater confidence, demonstrated beautifully by a quick-fire second from the influential Pusey.
It looked as if the attacking midfielder was in search of a team-mate for a cross as she drove to the by-line but instead clipped a devilish chip into the far corner from a near-impossible angle to put Saints firmly in the driving seat.
Morris saved again from Newton at point-blank range and Provan's deep cross bounced back off the post but the damage had already been done: Saints were double winners and fully deserving of being so. The perfect end to a remarkable maiden campaign.
Southampton FC: Kayla Rendell, Ella Morris, Shelly Provan, Caitlin Morris, Kelly Fripp, Georgie Freeland, Pheobe Williams, Chloe Newton (Emily Wernham 80), Ella Pusey, Shannon Sievwright, Rachel Woods (Ellie Chaffe 52)
Subs: Sara Luce, Emma Godden, Harriet Eastham
Oxford City Ladies: Nat Morris, Ella Dawkins, Rachel Morrison, Lindsay Pinker, Alice Bates, Rosie Hastings, Lauren May, Sian Riley-Phillips, Danielle Anderson, Ellie White, Edie Stillwell-Garrett.
Subs: Becci Bostock, Emily Green