Southampton Women 1 (Pharoah 22) Wolves Women 0
Wolves fell short of gaining promotion to the Championship as Southampton netted the only goal of the game, but despite the result, the old gold leave behind a season of trophies, new records and memories to cherish forever.
The game started out as a battle between both sides as they took time to find their feet on the grass at Edgeley Park, but the Saints then began to put the pressure on Wolves, finding positions to slot the ball into the final third.
Shan Turner was put into action early on, as she made a brilliant reaction save to Lucia Kendall’s effort as it came looping towards the net, tipping it over the bar to deny the red and white shirt.
Wolves had a chance to put themselves ahead as a brilliant pass from Beth Merrick found Jade Cross in plenty of space down the right-hand side. Cross was able to control the ball on the edge of the area and find Maz Gauntlett who tried her luck from inside the six-yard box, but her shot was saved by Kayla Rendell.
Following on from that, Wolves’ top goal scorer this season Amber Hughes had a couple of chances in which she struck the ball comfortably towards the target, but Rendell was there to deny her efforts.
The first set piece came on the 20-minute mark, in which Southampton were awarded a free-kick. It was headed towards goal, but the safe hands of Turner comfortably collected the ball.
However, Southampton were the team to break the deadlock with Sophia Pharoah netting halfway through the first-half. Despite Emma Cross’ best efforts to clear the ball at the last minute, it wasn’t enough to keep the ball out of the net.
The Saints came inches from doubling their lead with a set piece on the edge of the box teeing up Kendall who struck the post, with Alice Griffiths sending the ball over the crossbar for the rebound.
Wolves found themselves a player down on the stroke of half-time, as Kelly Darby was controversially dismissed for a late challenge after receiving a yellow card earlier on in the game.
Despite the old gold having a handful of chances to find the back of the net, the score line remained the same going into the break, with a massive 45 minutes ahead for both sides.
Half-time| Southampton 1-0 Wolves
The second-half began with Southampton having a handful of early chances, but it turned into a more end-to-end game with Wolves being able to progress the ball forward into the final third.
Hughes found herself in the box, brilliantly controlling the ball around the red and white shirts, she turned and struck, but her curling effort found the hands of Rendell.
The half continued with both sides giving everything, with chances continuing to come from both ends of the pitch, but no one was able to put the ball into the back of the net. The Wolves fans in the Cheadle End were full of song as they cheered on the girls’ every move.
Despite being ten players down for the whole of the second-half, the girls looked much more organised in their roles which had changed tactically at half-time. They positioned themselves well in order to receive the ball in dangerous areas and get forward.
A few close chances came in the final ten minutes for Southampton, but the shots were fired wide of the target.
Moments before the final whistle, Wolves came charging forward with the ball as they made their way into the opposition box. Player of the Season Tammi George found herself in space and was able to get her shot away and try for an equaliser, but unfortunately her effort went over the bar.
The full-time whistle was blown and despite their best efforts, Wolves fell to defeat and will remain in the FAWNL Northern Premier Division next season and not take the coveted spot in the Women’s Championship.
But, with two trophies in their cabinet and countless memories that will last a lifetime, it’s undoubtedly been a year to remember for everyone involved in the club and we would like to say a massive thank you to everyone for their support.
Full-time | Southampton 1-0 Wolves
Caretaker manager Karl Milgate, despite gutted at the day’s result, couldn’t be prouder of the girl’s overall attitude and performance.
He said: “We’ve stepped in and done this for a very good friend that I respect hugely so I’m a little bit down myself because I wanted to do the job for him, however, what they’ve done this season this group and what Macca’s done for three and a half years and what they’ve attempted to put in place in that second half is incredible.
“We had to change tactically at half-time. Southampton are a good team, so it would’ve probably been silly to come out the same way and I think we would’ve been hurt. We knew, and the message was stay in the game as long as possible. At 1-0 you will get chances and we did.
“We had to be disciplined and focused and what we were doing and get to a point which was 75/80 minutes and then we could really test them. At 1-0, even 11 against 10, they will look at the scoreboard and think, one goal and we’re back to game on. It nearly worked and we had a chance at the end. We could’ve maybe been a bit more aggressive in the second half attacking wise, but the girls have done fantastic. What a performance in the second-half with ten players.
“Tactically we had to reorganise. We had to be very disciplined, don’t go and chase, let Southampton want to move you around. They want you to chase the ball and chase players and even though that was the plan anyway, we said we had to be even better at it. You’ve got to dig for that other five percent you didn’t think you had. If you haven’t got that in the second half, tell us, because ultimately, we need ten out there that can dig that deep.”
Reflecting on an incredible season…
“My first message to the girls this morning was to understand how many people in the city you’ve made proud of you. From kids to old and bold grown men and women. They’ve made a lot of people proud of their football club.
“Ultimately, we all play sport to win, and we are disappointed because we came here to win today. We didn’t come here to let Southampton win or walk all over us, and I don’t think they did. You can tell by their celebration at the end that they know they had to work for it as well.
“I’m incredibly proud and Macca will be immensely proud of this group. Obviously, it’s a very hard situation we’re in, myself and him. It’s amazing to be a part of it and feel the city and the club.”
“First and foremost, everyone needs a rest. I’ve only been here six weeks and it feels longer than that. It’s 21st May and they’re still going so fair play to them. Everyone needs a rest, get some recovery, get away from football probably for a bit and then rejuvenate, come back. The club will drive and push on 100 per cent and Macca will.
“We all know Macca. He won’t settle for this. He will be back next year, and he will probably be already making a plan of how he’s going to win it again. He’ll regroup this incredible group and get them ready to go again.”
Southampton: Rendell, Parnell, Rafferty, Freeland (Morris 61), Ware, Pharoah, Kendall, Mott, Griffiths, Rutherford, Collett (Rood 76).
Wolves: Turner, Cooper, Price, E. Cross, Gauntlett (Miller 69), George, J. Cross, Hughes, Darby, Morphet, Merrick.