The final table has really started to take shape as Bristol and Yeovil both clinched promotion leaving Everton to hope it's third time lucky next season. Elsewhere Durham, the Bees and Sheffield and all set for strong finishes as the bottom three will hope they can learn from their mistakes in 2017 when they will be fighting for safety.
Knowing that without a win their promotion hopes would be hanging by a threat Everton hit the ground running, dominating the ball from the outset but a lack of clinical edge in the final third left them frustrated. When Claire Emslie dug the ball out of her feet and left fly with a delightful curler to beat Kirstie Levell from 25 yards it looked like Bristol were heading for greatness but a foul on Gabby George in the box two minutes later saw Claudia Walker instantly restore parity. Although the team on top in the first-half Everton still laboured against a well regimented Bristol who at times rode their luck until the break.
If they’d been too relaxed or complacent or just not gelling in attack, the Vixens came out for the second-half a team revitalised, pushing Everton back and bossing the possession. Suddenly the dominance force, Millie Farrow pounced on a careless touch from Megan Finnigan to roll the ball past Levell before Emslie made it three with a superb solo goal. Single-handedly bringing the ball through midfield, she weaved around the back-line creating enough space to let fly from the top of the box, Levell once more left pawing at the air, Bristol all but confirmed as promoted.
A late surge from the hosts game them hope however, and George’s advanced position bore fruit as her dangerous cross caused enough confusion in the box for Dan Turner to poke the ball past a forlorn Caitlin Leach. But there was yet late drama as Everton were awarded a second penalty for a handball in the box in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Walker who’d so calmly slotted the first home showed little conviction as she weakly sent the ball in the same direction. Leach was more than wise to her and made a heroic dive to keep the shot out – although on paper a draw may still not have been enough for the Blues but certainly enough for Bristol.
With Bristol already having secured promotion the previous day the pressure was back on Yeovil, a win on the day would mean promotion anything else would take it down to the last day of the season. Just like their counterparts, Yeovil didn’t look the thing in the first-half, the Bees the team on top, with more of the ball and more threats on Charlotte Haynes’ goal – a double goal-line clearance from Helen Bleazard to deny Evie Clarke and Jo Wilson the highlight of the half for the Lady Glovers. But, just like their West Country neighbours, Yeovil found their mojo in the second-half, dictating play from the whistle and overrunning their hosts.
After having both worked hard against a stubborn defence in the first-half, Lucy Quinn and Kayleigh Green finally found joy after the break, combining well for the latter to loop a header over Sophie Harris following Quinn’s tidy cross. The goal only served to fuel the fire as Yeovil began their barrage, the Bees defence suddenly far less assured but just about holding.
A whirlwind minute at the end of the game saw the visitors put a bow on the match and confirm their promotion, after Haynes’ had rather bundled a corner claim the green and white shirts back managed to keep the ball from rolling over the line under huge pressure from the hosts. But with almost all the Bees forward searching for an equaliser it was a routine break from the Glovers as Nadia Lawrence and Josie Jones streaking away up the pitch, catching Harris hopelessly outnumbered, Lawrence knocked the ball around the keeper to watch it curl inside of the post with just less than ten minutes left.
At the other end of the table, Watford confirmed their last place finish with a heavy home defeat to the Wildcats. Despite taking an early lead courtesy of Ellie Mason’s tenth minute penalty the hosts fell apart just before the break as Nat Gutteridge, Beth Hepple and Emily Roberts all got the better of Lucy Gillet inside of four minutes.
After being on top for most of the first-half, Watford found the deficit insurmountable and were unable to find their footing after the break, and once more conceded three in quick succession. Nicola Gibson’s two-minute brace a sucker-punch before Mercy Darkoah added a sixth a minute later, immediately after coming off of the bench.
After a scrappy first-half both sides would have gone in at half-time frustrated with their respective lack of chances but the game sparked into life just before the hour as the hosts hit Oxford for two in two minutes. Carla Ward opened the scoring with a neat run through the defence before finishing low past Demi Lambourne and before the U’s could respond Rhema Lord-Mears left the visitors shocked blasting her 25-yard effort right into the top corner.
Ini Umotong kept her hopes of finishing the season top goalscorer up in the dying seconds, giving the U’s a late conciliation as she pounced on a hesitation from Claire Wallhead to hit home. The result confirms a lofty fifth place finish for the WSL newcomers, whist (baring an absolute goal-fest) Oxford have confirmed their ninth place finish.
Millwall 2-2 Aston Villa
Millwall secured their eighth place finish and extended their unbeaten run with their draw against Villa. Amber Gaylor had given the Lionesses the lead just before half-time with a sublime turn and shoot, her footwork spot on to roll her marker before rifling the ball past Jess Myers at her near post but the Villainesses responded well and the talismanic Bethan Merrick equalised ten minutes after the restart.
But once more the hosts took the lead as Megan Wynne opened her account of the London club, nodding beyond Myers after some determined build-up play from her side. With the clock ticking down it looked like the Lionesses would be set for their fourth win of the year but the visitors were more than happy to spoil the party as Hannah George knocked her header past Sarah Quantrill at a Merrick free kick in the 89 minute. The Midlands side have confirmed at least a seventh place finish but could still seal sixth.