The two Champions have have contrasting paths in their title successes, Brighton & Hove Albion WFC, have been the leader in the FAWPL Southern Division for the majority of the season, getting their games in when their rivals didn't. Were in a strong position going into their final league match of the season knowing a win away to Tottenham Hotspur Ladies would see them become the Champions. Was there to see them win the game and celebrate the title. That was back on Sunday 10th April and the club has been through a turbulent period since. Has seen 1st team manger James Marrs relieved of his post after an allegation was lodged with the Sussex FA and with his departure a number of 1st team regulars have left too, defender Deanna Cooper, top scorer Charlotte Gurr and captain Jay Blackie who all played a huge part in helping Brighton win the FAWPL Southern Division title. George Parris has taken on the role of interim 1st team manager in the long six week lay off in competitive matches as the club prepares for the biggest match in it's history.
Sporting Club Albion on contrast have come from no where to win the FAWPL Northern Division a 10th placed finish this season has seen an almost Leicester City rise to the top of the table. Had games in hand on everyone else in the league due to an extended run in the FA Women's Cup ending up as the last FAWPL club in the competition in the quarter finals eventually beaten by Manchester City Women. That meant a fixture pile up and a lot of games to be played in a short space of time, rose to the challenge and when Preston North End WFC played out their league games knew if they won their they could over haul them and win the title. Unlike Brighton they finished their league campaign on the 15th of May and have a match sharpness Brighton for all their training may have lost.
The two sides have met already once this season drawn together in the 5th Round of the FA Women's Cup, Sporting Club Albion Ladies making the trip to the south coast to play Brighton raced into a 3-0 lead inside the opening 17 minutes, Brighton fought their way back into the game to level it up at 3-3 before Sporting Club Albion went on to score the winning goal in the 83rd minute back in March.
The venue for today's FAWPL Championship Play Off match, Adams Park, home of Wycombe Wanderers FC and this season Reading FC Women. Situated at the end of an industrial estate you wouldn't know it as the ground is in a dip surrounded by trees, a picturesque setting. It isn't the easiest to get to the M25 proving to be a pain in the... once again arrived 30 minutes before kick off okay I know but I like being there an hour before kick off. Not to worry I was there is a nice League Two ground, a decent crowd in attendance in good voice too, surrounded by Brighton fans and they had a bit of banter lined up for their Sporting Club Albion counterparts up the opposite end of the stand. The weather was great the pitch too everything in place for a great game of women's football.
Brighton & Hove Albion WFC starting XI - Faye Baker, Charley Boswell, Sophie Perry, Vicky Ashton-Jones (C), Catherine Cooper, Hollie Olding, Charlotte Young, Kirsty Barton, Lucy Somes, Kate Natkiel & Amy Taylor.
subs - Lisa Fulgence, Phoebe Leitch, Danielle Rowe, Ellie Dorey & Nina Wilson.
Sporting Club Albion Ladies starting XI - Rebecca Thomas, Samantha Conroy, Kelly Darby (C), Stephanie Smith, Kelly Highman, Summer Holmes, Trina Greaves, Paige Crossman, Hazzana Parnell, Leigh Dugmore & Abigail Cottam
subs - Charlotte Edmunds, Amy Dicken, Billie Haynes, Kate Wright & Karen Clough.
It's Sporting Club Albion to get the Championship Play Off match underway 1st half lined up wearing red shirts, white shorts and socks with Brighton lined up opposite wearing blue and white vertical striped shirts, blue shorts, and blue socks with white tops. The ball is played long in towards the Brighton area straight from kick off, goalkeeper Faye Baker comes to collect getting an early touch on the ball.
Sporting Club Albion start the brighter making progress with the ball down the left side, Hazzana Parnell playing in down the line for Summer Holmes the throw is won deep in the corner, Kelly Highman comes forwards to take everyone set up for a long throw, doesn't come off as planned Charley Boswell getting it clear for Brighton on the edge of the box. Coming again down the left Leigh Dugmore has the ball at her feet this time passes the ball into striker Abigail Cottam, Brighton captain Vicky Ashton-Jones comes across to tackle puts the ball behind for a corner kick on the left. Played in long to the far post area Brighton get it out of the area.
A scrappy start to the match Brighton haven't settled yet Sporting Club Albion are coming forwards with confidence. Parnell central squeezes the ball on into the Brighton area with Dugmore looking to get onto the end of it but Brighton's Boswell gets back on her defends well winning the ball. Played up to Sophie Perry out to the left brings the ball on before releasing Amy Taylor moving out to the right wing taking the ball on down the line unleashes a shot sending the ball in straight and fast towards the near post, Sporting Club Albion goalkeeper, Rebecca Thomas gets down sharply and smothers the shot.
Brighton build up another attack the ball rolled into Perry in a central position 25 or so yards out, lines up the shot the ball sails over the crossbar. In the space of 3 minutes Brighton test try their luck from distance as the ball is sent out to Lucy Somes on the right by Kate Natkiel, Somes turns back inside with the ball 20 yards out looks to catch Thomas unaware off her line, takes on the shot a looping effort whipping into the air drops late but not enough as it lands on the roof of the net. A busy start to the match 10 minutes on the clock.
|Catherine Cooper keeps her eye on the ball for Brighton|
GOAL! Sporting Club Albion open the scoring in the Championship Play Off, have a corner on the right the initial ball in sent long is cleared by Brighton is regained by Sporting Club Albion finds it's way to Parnell out wide right as Brighton look to clear their area, the ball swept back in is at a perfect height to attack as Dugmore leaps up on the six yard line to nail her header into the back of the net 0-1 a bit of banter with the vocal Brighton fans at that end of the ground as she runs away in celebration.
|Leigh Dugmore celebrates after opening the scoring in the FAWPL Championship Play Off|
Cottam wins the ball over on the left side of the pitch cuts back inside 25 yards out plays the pass into Holmes who looks to line up a shot, screws the effort away from goal. Brighton's Kirsty Barton plays the ball into Natkiel her pass spreads the play out to the right with Somes bursting forwards, stands the cross up towards the far post, Taylor out there stoops to head the ball a glancing touch can only turn the ball behind for a goal kick.
Few lunging challenges coming in so far the referee is happy to let the game flow, Brighton counter attack up the left side the ball is played long for Taylor to chase looking to turn into the box is stopped by Sporting Club Albion captain Kelly Darby a great tackle to deny her a scoring opportunity. Up the other end Sporting Club Albion have a corner on the right a good delivery this time sent into the middle of the crowded six yard box is turned wide at the far post a goal kick the decision. Cottam getting into the Brighton area from the right, manages to get a shot away as she is tackled the ball running across goal is grabbed by the diving Baker.
Cottam is looking a threat for Sporting Club Albion on the back attacking down the right, cuts back inside to beat her marker sends the shot in with plenty of power behind it aiming for the near post Baker is across the ball strikes the base of the post then is saved by Baker before being cleared for a throw. Again Sporting Club Albion are on the attack Cottam going after the ball played down into the left channel lays it back towards the top of the area with Highman racing forwards from the back to support her gets to the ball nipping past a Brighton player then with the outside of her boot lays it inside for Holmes 20 yards out takes on the shot, is blocked by Ashton-Jones inside the box.
End to end at the moment, Sporting Club Albion defending frantically on the edge of their area get it away, Somes is fouled on half way the ball played in long by Charlotte Young, Taylor chesting it down can't turn and hit the shot Sporting Club Albion break the ball coming to Cottam moving out to the left, turning inside coming into the area, Ashton-Jones ets back across on her to win the ball back.
GOAL! 5 minutes left to play in the 1st half and Brighton get themselves back on level terms. Not alot Thomas can do about this one in the Sporting Club Albion goal is just a terrific strike from distance from the boot of Natkiel a goal out of nothing but hugely important. the ball played into her centrally around 25 yards out makes good connection with the shot hitting the ball up and in towards the top corner the keeper doesn't move, goal 1-1.
|Kate Natkiel with a terrific strike levels things up for Brighton|
The goal has lifted Brighton late in the 1st half and they push forwards looking for another, Hollie Olding fancies her chances from distance too and going for goal lifts her effort up over the bar from outside the area. Free kick wide on the right side for Brighton after Somes is tripped up Perry is over the ball whips it in towards the centre of goal Darby gets her head on the ball turning it out wide left. Highman defends well inside her box as Taylor plays the ball out to Somes late on the winger looking to drive with the ball into the area.
Half-time Brighton & Hove Albion WFC 1-1 Sporting Club Albion Ladies
That was a fast paced 1st 45 minutes, took Brighton a little while to get going and Sporting Club Albion took full advantage taking the lead have been the better side in the 1st half creating numerous chances. Brighton have had chances to and a brilliant strike from Natkiel sees them go in all square at the break all to play for 2nd half.
Brighton to get the 2nd half underway. It's Sporting Club Albion who mount the 1st attack as Paige Crossman bringing the ball forwards wide on the right plays an early ball into the area is met by Trina Greaves on the volley turns the effort wide across the goal. Breaking up an Brighton attack Crossman comes on again on the right with the ball the ball is played into Dugmore making a run to get into the box from the right, Boswell gets back with the attacker won't let her turn into the box Dugmore plays it back up the pitch into Crossman who sends the cross long to the far post Cottam is there, Ashton-Jones heads the ball behind for a corner.
|Abigail Cottam looking to control the ball for Sporting Club Albion|
Crossman involved again as she brings the ball on once again for Sporting Club Albion the cross is sent in to the near post Cottam in amongst 3 Brighton defenders the ball goes over for a corner kick. Taken from the right plenty of pace on the delivery sent in near post Dugmore has come towards the ball unmarked drills her shot wide of goal.
A dangerous free kick is awarded to Brighton as Somes is up ended in front of the d as she looks to dribble the ball into the area. 20 yards out Perry is over the set-piece goes for goal getting the ball up over the wall, won't drop goes over the crossbar too. Continues to be an open game a good watch. Crossman gets forwards again on the right for Sporting Club Albion takes on the shot from the corner of the area, doesn't make a clean connection with the ball is collected by Baker.
Another free kick goes Brighton's way further out this time, Barton over the ball sends it from 40 yards out into the area Olding gets her head on the ball but can only turn it down to the front of the area is cleared but not far before being lifted back in Taylor closely marked by Samantha Conroy edge of the box manages to turn inside get a shot away sends the ball wide. Young on the six yard line at the far post leaps highest inside the box as Brighton win a corner on the right can't keep the header down goes over the crossbar.
Perry brings the ball forwards into the Sporting Club Albion half has Olding up with her in support, plays the ball inside to her, is a good way out when she winds up the strike goes for goal, Thomas pushes the ball away to her right Stephanie Smith concedes the corner kick which is cleared by Darby.
GOAL! Closing in on the 70th minute mark Brighton get themselves into the lead, the open nature of the match means either side are likely to time the perfect ball through the centre to get an attacker in, Brighton manage just that the ball is slipped through the middle with Natkiel the player furthest forwards clear to run into the area unopposed is one on one with the advancing keeper, keeps her composure takes the shot early is past Thomas, don't see it cross the line as the crowd in front of me leap up in celebration 2-1.
|2 goals for Kate Natkiel|
GOAL! Brighton have worked hard since taking the lead to pressure the ball in search of a 2nd and barely 5 minutes after taking the lead double their advantage. Are attacking with Taylor on the ball is tackled as she gets the ball into the Sporting Club Albion area, Smith headers the ball out Taylor goes after the ball left side of the D and is fouled again this time the free kick is awarded, Perry is over it again, is a quality strike powered in towards goal, Thomas barely moves the ball finding the top corner 3-1.
|Sophie Perry with a superbly delivered free kick makes it 3-1 to Brighton|
A double change for Sporting Club Albion after conceding the 3rd goal, Parnell and Cottam come off as Karen Clough and Billie Haynes come on. Have the ball out on the right side the cross is lifted in long to the far post, the header is turned in towards goal, Baker holds onto the shot.
GOAL! A sucker punch for Sporting Club Albion as they find themselves going 4-1 down as Brighton take control of the game scoring a 3rd goal inside 8 minutes, Perry is played in down the line on the left goes to take on a defender riding the challenge stays on her feet as she gets in behind cutting into the area lifts the ball up into the six yard box, Taylor is there to attack it gets her head on the ball turning it wide of Thomas into the top corner 4-1.
|Amy Taylor with the 4th goal for Brighton|
10 minutes left to play Brighton make a change Somes coming off with Ellie Dorey. Sporting Club Albion pick themselves up try to get the ball forwards, Dugmore tries to head the ball in towards goal from the edge of the box as the cross is fired into her from the left side. Rolls through to Baker in the Brighton goal. Sporting Club Albion look tired late on conceding 3 goals in quick succession having matches Brighton toe to toe for almost 70 minutes. Perry bursts down the left the cross is played in towards Taylor her looping header drops into the arms of Thomas. Brighton make another change bringing of Taylor for Lisa Fulgence in attack with 5 minutes of normal time left to play.
GOAL! Sporting Club Albion to their credit have kept going and on 88 minutes get themselves a goal back. Pressing bodies forwards the cross is lifted into the box from the right glanced in on the middle falls to Clough at the far stick, sends the ball back in across goal and scores 4-2.
That late goal has lifted Sporting Club Albion and they push on feeling they can get another an make things really interesting. The ball played into Dugmore on the right holds it up as Smith comes towards the ball playing it back to her she goes for the 1st time ball into the area looking to lift it up high and drop under Baker's crossbar lands on the roof of the net. Rather than the comfortable finish to the game Brighton might have expected they have to defend frantically late on a determined however to prevent a 3rd goal going in blocking Sporting Club Albion shots on the edge of their area. Danielle Rowe coming on in injury time for Olding.
Brighton don't concede again and as the final whistle blows celebrate winning the Championship Play Off beating Sporting Club Albion 4-2. A 3 gaol burst in the 2nd half enough to put them in control of the game knock the stuffing out of their opponents, although they had to absorb some late pressure held on for the win. Both sides playing their part on a great game to end the FAWPL season, could have gone either way and Sporting Club Albion had the better of the 1st half. A tough end to their season but they can hold their heads high, are FAWPL Northern Division Champions and have had an excellent season.
Brighton & Hove Albion WFC, achieve their goal for the season to achieve promotion to the FAWSL winning the play off final. Now they can apply for an FAWSL license and so long as they meet the criteria, such as finances, marketing and ground they will be playing in the FAWSL 2 in the 2017 season. Were cheered on by a vocal crowd, who will be eagerly awaiting their FAWSL bow.
|Sophie Perry celebrating after the final whistle|
|Long serving Brighton goalkeeper Faye Baker let's everyone know who the Champions are|
|Brighton & Hove Albion WFC are this seasons FAWPL Championship Play Off Winners|
One thing left and that's to add my congratulations to Brighton & Hove Albion WFC on their FAWPL Championship Play Off win.