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Laura's late goal seals promotion
 Women's Football News 25 May 2009
 
Whilst the men's professional game was sorting out promotion play-off issues at Wembley, the only English women's league to use a similar system matched up Taverham and Billericay Town for a place in the Eastern Region League's top division.
 
Both clubs had finished runners-up in their respective First Divisions and a match at Woodbridge Town FC on Sunday would decide the final promotion place. Taverham, a village club from just outside Norwich, were to triumph 1-0 in extra time in a thrilling contest which definitely did not deserve a loser. A goal from Laura Sutton after 116 minutes, scrambled home after a free kick was only half cleared, decided the match but both sides played clever passing football and contained players who could comfortably compete at a higher level.
 
Billericay started slightly the better with outstanding midfielder Sarah Matson sending a 30-yard shot just wide on 13 minutes. When Taverham went forward, they carved out two glorious chances around the 20 minute mark, but both shots slid just wide. Indeed, this was the story throughout the game, excellent build up play not matched by precise finishing.
 
In addition, both goalkeepers were in fine form - Christine Thompson denying Billericay with a brave triple save from a Matson corner and follow up efforts whilst Michelle Bridgeman produced a fantastic tip over from a 35 yard-shot destined for the top corner on the half hour.
 
Billericay pushed forward for much of the second half and went closest when a free kick hit the bar on 57 minutes. Striker Kerry Oldham also went close twice with headers and speedy winger Kiran Hare was a constant threat. The Norfolk club hung on at times with captain Ruth Smart outstanding at centre half and right back Fong Chung playing with great energy and determination.
 
Inevitably, the heat and the pace of the game took its toll in extra time with cramp affecting several players. A penalty lottery seemed inevitable until Taverham were awarded a free kick level edge of the penalty area with four minutes left. A clever chip to the near post was pushed away by a combination of Bridgeman and a defender but the ball fell to Sutton who drove it home to set off wild celebrations. Taverham saw out time with ease to claim a place in the Premier Division for the first time.
 
The well supported Essex team, managed by Kim Coster, had given a fine display for no reward but the whole match was an excellent advert for the standard of Regional League football and both teams should be proud of their display.
 
(Report by Patrick Higgins)

 
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