The dream became reality on Thursday night as Chichester City Ladies finally secured the holy grail of promotion from FA Women’s Premier South West One as champions and a lucrative place in the premier south for next season as the green army, roared on by a packed house at Oaklands, demolished St Nicholas Ladies to seal the title in style.
St Nicholas started the game with only nine outfield players and their goal keeper, Lauren Ellis so the advantage was firmly in the hosts court but the green and blacks simply packed themselves behind the ball from the offset and frustrated Chichester for lengthy periods with the hosts reduced to long range efforts that were either easily saved or went wide of the mark.
Eventually the deadlock had to be broken and close the half hour Chichester finally got their noses in front through the ever impressive Jess Lewry. Kerry Ryan gained space on the right hand side, close to the corner flag and whipped in a dangerous cross and, at the second attempt, Lewry looped a header passed the despairing effort of Ellis into the back of the net. With the green army regularly swapping their wide players, Lucie Challen now popped up on the right and, just after the half our, saw a speculative effort elude everyone in the area and nestle in the bottom corner to double Chichester’s lead.
The home team were, by now, in full flow and more goals were quickly to come. Lauren Cheshire was next to the party as she volleyed in superbly from a Challen cross and then Lewry grabbed two goals in quick succession to nail a first half hat trick. Firstly the striker was in the right place at the right time to poke in at the back post and then unleashed a fearsome drive from the edge of the area that gave Ellis no chance and saw the net bulge in making the half time score an impressive five goals to nil.
Manager, Liam Greenfield, had an interesting dilemma to contend with in the second half as to which of his array of substitutes to bring on with two to miss out on a part in the occasion with just forty five minutes of play left. Before making his mind up he saw Jess Lewry hit the bar with a powerful header early on and captain, Becky Barron, slammed home the sixth goal of the match with a thumping drive before Lewry finally made way for Kally Ambler. A few minutes later, with just over an hour gone, Charley Wilson-Blakely got her name on the score sheet with number seven. This time it was a typical strikers close range finish for Wilson-Blakely and one of her easier goals to score all season.
Chichester continued to pour forward and soon Chloe Dowdell had snared another goal with a quality finish at the far post and again from close range. By now the experience of Molly Clark had entered the fray in place of Laura Ingram and with just her second touch after coming on let fly from fully thirty yards and left Ellis clutching at air as the ball flew past her and into the back of the net. The final substitute to make her entrance was Jenna Fowlie who came on with a quarter of the game left to run which meant that Lou Lou Robson and Carmen Kager were the very unlucky players to miss out on a chance to be an active part of the run to the finish line. The clock steadily ran down and in injury time the best was saved till last as Clark left fly from distance again, this time from easily forty yards and saw the effort sail over Ellis’s head and into the back of the net.
Moments later and the final whistle sounded to spark joyous celebrations amongst players and management in the realisation at what had just been achieved and it was a very proud captain, Becky Barron, who had the special moment of lifting the championship trophy in front of her teammates and all the supporters. The champagne flowed and the party continued in the clubhouse late into the night. One game of the season still remains in an away trip to Keynsham and the chance to complete a remarkable unbeaten season is just ninety minutes away. Chichester are the champions and how so richly this accolade has been deserved by all involved.
Written by Alan Price