The dream has become reality.
Chichester City Ladies finally secured the holy grail of promotion from division south-west one of the FA Women’s Premier League as champions – and a lucrative place in the premier south division for next season.
They were roared on by more than 200 fans at Oaklands Park, demolishing St Nicholas Ladies 10-0 to seal the title in style.
St Nicholas started the game with only nine players including a stand-in keeper, Lauren Ellis, so the advantage was firmly in the hosts’ court.
The green and blacks packed themselves behind the ball from the outset and frustrated Chichester for lengthy periods with the hosts reduced to long-range efforts that were either easily saved or went wide.
Eventually the deadlock had to be broken and close to the half-hour City got their noses in front through the impressive Jess Lewry.
Kerry Ryan gained space on the right and whipped in a dangerous cross andLewry looped a header past the despairing effort of Ellis.
Lucie Challen popped up on the right and saw a speculative effort elude everyone in the area and nestle in the goal to double Chichester’s lead.
The home team were in full flow and more goals quickly came. Lauren Cheshire volleyed in superbly from a Challen cross and then Lewry grabbed two goals in quick succession to complete a first-half hat-trick. First the striker was in the right place to poke in at the back post – then she unleashed a fearsome drive from the edge of the area that gave Ellis no chance, making it 5-0 at the break.
After the break Lewry hit the bar with a powerful header and captain Becky Barron slammed home the sixth with a thumping drive before Lewry made way for Kally Ambler.
With just over an hour gone, Charley Wilson-Blakely got her name on the scoresheet with number seven, a typical striker’s close range finish. Chloe Dowdell snared another goal with a quality finish at the far post.
The experienced Molly Clark entered the fray in place of Laura Ingram and with her second touch she let fly from 30 yards and left Ellis clutching at air.
The final substitute to make an entrance was Jenna Fowlie.
In injury time Clark left fly from long distance again and saw the effort sail over Ellis’s head.
Moments later the final whistle sounded to spark joyous celebrations among players and management – and it was a very proud captain, Becky Barron, who had the special moment of lifting the championship trophy in front of her team-mates and supporters.
The champagne flowed and the party continued in the clubhouse late into the night. One game of the season still remains – an away trip to Keynsham – and with it the chance to complete a remarkable unbeaten season.
Chichester are the champions – and how richly this accolade has been deserved by all involved.
CCLFC: S Wilson-Blakely, C Wilson-Blakely, Cheshire, Challen, Barron, Dowdell, Lewry, Khassall, Ryan, Alexandre, Ingram. Subs: Ambler, Fowlie, Clark, Robson, Kager.
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