Southampton Women 1-0 Wolves Women: Saints march on to Women's Championship
STOCKPORT, ENGLAND - MAY 21: Sophie Pharoah of Southampton scores their team's first goal during The FA Women's National League Play-off Final between Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Edgeley Park on May 21, 2022 in Stockport, England. (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images)

Southampton have been promoted to the Women’s Championship for the first time in their history after defeating Wolverhampton Wanderers at Edgeley Park.

Sophia Pharoah’s first half goal proved to be enough as the Saints taste play-off final victory to end a record breaking campaign and complete promotion and cup double in the FAWNL.

Wolves face another season in the third tier after falling at the final hurdle, despite losing just once in 24 regular season matches.

Pre-match

Nearly three weeks on from the final fixture of the regular season, Southampton boss Marieanne Spacey-Cale named the same side that defeated Cardiff City that day.

Wolverhampton Wanderers have since won the Birmingham County Cup final against neighbours West Bromwich Albion, and they too named an unchanged lineup for the play-off final. 

Story of the match

The Saints, backed by a large and vocal following from the south coast, began on the front foot. Pharoah with a delightful flick inside the box for Lucia Kendall, but her chipped effort wasn’t powerful enough to clear the onrushing Shan Turner.

Wolves’ biggest threat was looking to come down the right. Marie Gauntlett and Amber Hughes both saw half-chances dealt with by Kayla Rendell and her defence after some good work from Jade Cross.

The deadlock was broken midway through the first half. Georgia Freeland’s diagonal pass was inch-perfect for Pharoah, who rounded Turner with ease to slot into the empty net and net Southampton’s 100th league goal of the season.

Southampton had a golden chance to double their advantage through Kendall when her free-kick from 25 yards cannoned off the post. Alice Griffiths was in the right place at the right time but her rebound sailed over the bar when it was easier to score.

Wolves’ task was made more difficult on the stroke of half-time as Kelly Darby, already on a yellow card, lunged in on Alisha Ware and was given her marching orders by referee Lauren Impey.

Southampton, buoyed by their numerical advantage, immediately began the second half on the search for a second goal. Pharoah couldn’t make the most of Milly Mott’s cross while Kendall’s audacious lob from distance was off target.

Wolves kept themselves in the contest and soon had their best spell of the game. Hughes did incredibly well to hold the ball up in the penalty area before striking an effort on the turn, but only into the safe hands of Rendell.

As the game entered its final 15 minutes, Saints substitute Katie Rood went close with a long-range effort that evaded both Turner and the far post.

Rood then met a Griffiths free-kick from deep, but her header fell agonisingly wide of the mark.

There was time for late drama, though. Deep into stoppage time, Wolves had a glorious chance to level. Jade Cross knocked it down for Tammi George, who fired over the bar from six yards out.

A roar around Edgeley Park from the Saints faithful confirmed Southampton’s promotion as the final whistle blew.

Match information

Southampton (4-2-3-1): Rendell; Collett (Rood 75), Parnell (c), Rafferty, Mott; Rutherford, Griffiths; Ware, Kendall, Freeland (Morris 62); Pharoah. Subs: Pusey, Luce, Watling.

Booked: Parnell.

Wolves (3-4-1-2): Turner; Morphet, E. Cross, Darby; Merrick, Cooper, Price (c), J. Cross; George; Gauntlett (Miller 69), Hughes. Subs: Dicken, Walker, Elsmore, Burridge.

Booked: Darby (2).

Sent Off: Darby.

Referee: Lauren Impey.

Attendance: 1,354.

VAVEL Logo