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Reading Ladies FC lifted the Southern Region League Chairman's Cup with a 3-0 victory over Andover New Street at Aldershot Town FC's EBB Stadium.
In their first final since 1999, Reading Ladies were successful but were pushed all the way by the Greens, two late goals making it a harsh scoreline for the Hampshire club.
Both sides are in the top three of Division One, with Reading having completed their fixtures whilst New Street have two matches left. The final was played at a cracking pace with the teams trading scoring opportunities throughout. Ranai Bird opened the scoring on 19 minutes with a close range header from a corner as Reading looked the more dangerous early on. Andover keeper Ella Howells made a good double save, parrying a powerful shot before catching Tina Leahy's follow up effort.
At the other end, New Street created their best chances from Sara Collins' 35-yard free kick on 20 minutes and a Charlotte Hull shot on target which was blocked by a New Street colleague on the half hour. Collins then found Hull with a free kick but the volley went wide. Right on the break, another Collins set piece was cleared off the line as New Street finished the half on top.
The pace of Bird was very effective for Reading and a run and cross gave Beth Williams a chance which she put over the bar at full stretch. New Street skipper Jess Frampton released Hull on the right and her cross was nearly turned in by Kerri Lewis on 55 minutes. Sub Michaela Tobin forced a good save from Reading keeper Amy Cox on the hour and Williams went close again a minute later at the other end.
Kayleigh Hines went on a powerful run before setting up Daniella Alli for a shot which was pushed on to the bar by Howells. Back came New Steet and Cox was forced into a point blank block after a Frampton run and cross.
The teams continued to exchange opportunities before a moment of magic settled the tie. Player of the match Hines placed a perfect free kick from wide right from all of 35 yards, giving Howells no chance on 82 minutes. Three minutes later, a quick throw in released Bird who crossed for Sarah Davern to drive home the third. Hines was denied by a fine Howells block as Reading Ladies threatened to run riot.
New Street again fought back and Lewis had a goal ruled out for offside and Frampton was inches wide as the Greens were unable to score a deserved consolation in added time.
Both clubs are on the up after after a period of difficulty and provided an enjoyable spectacle to start to Finals Day. Reading Ladies earned their first honours for a long time but Andover New Street played their part, urged on by their enthusiastic support.
Reading Ladies: Amy Cox, Melanie Pope, Alison Johnson, Natasha Thompson, Sinead Thompson, Kayleigh Hines, Daniella Alli, Ranai Bird, Tina Leahy, Beth Wiliams, Sarah Davern. Subs: Kate Greenacre, Sarah Reid.
Andover New Street: Ella Howells, Claire Vincent, Lauren Pearce, Lydia Moulding, Claire Selway, Jess Frampton, Laura Humphreys, Kerri Lewis, Charlotte Hull, Sara Collins, Jenna Patterson. Subs: Michaela Tobin, Claire Ham, Nicola Millins, Zoe Vella.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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