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Millwall Lionesses 0 Sunderland 4 (McDougall 17, Furness 63, Ramshaw 65, Joice 68)
Three goals in a five minute second half spell fired Sunderland to the inaugural FA WSL 2 title and promotion to the top flight next year.
The Wearsiders needed a victory in order to guarantee themselves the Championship and after a nervous first half, an emphatic display after the break ensured that the trophy would be heading towards the north east.
The kick off was delayed by fifteen minutes because of heavy traffic and this may not have helped a tense looking Sunderland side as they tried to settle down at The Den. They did get the ball in the net on nine minutes when Keira Ramshaw headed in a Sophie Williams cross but the goal was disallowed for a foul.
Sunderland did not have to wait long before the breakthrough came though, Rachel Furness and Williams combining to set up a chance for Kelly McDougall who curled a delightful shot beyond the dive of Sarah Quantrill and into the top corner of the net.
Opportunities were scarce at either end during the first half with Millwall struggling to break down a solid Sunderland defence and the visitors also finding it hard to get through again. Williams fired an effort wide and Beth Mead sidefooted a shot past the far post as Sunderland took their one goal lead into the interval.
After the break, Sunderland pressed hard for a second goal and were inches away from doubling their lead when Furness headed just wide from a Vicki Greenwell corner. Mead then made a good run down the right which took her to the goal line and she cut the ball back for McDougall but Naomi Cole did well to get across and charge down her shot.
Abbey Joice sidefooted wide after exchanging passes with Mead who got in herself a minute later from McDougall's through ball but an alert Quantrill was quick off her line to made a smart blocking save at her feet. Abby Holmes was next to make an attempt after more good set up play from Mead but her shot flew straight at Quantrill.
Furness, who had dominated matters in an impressive midfield display, then went even closer as she rattled the bar with a powerful 30-yard strike but just as Sunderland frustrations started to grow, they finally found the second goal they craved so badly.
Frankie Strugnell had gone close with a long range strike at the other end but after a Greenwell corner had come back off the post, the ball was returned to the full back who whipped in a pinpoint cross into the centre where three Sunderland players were waiting and it was Furness who headed firmly home.
Sunderland celebrations had hardly finished before they further increased their lead. A long ball forward was headed on by Mead for Ramshaw to unleash a sumptuous volley which sailed past a helpless Quantrill and into the top corner of the net.
All of a sudden, Sunderland were running riot and three minutes later Mead was the provider again as she played in Joice who buried her shot past Quantrill to make it four.
Furness was close to a second goal as she rose highest to meet a Greenwell corner but Quantrill denied her with an excellent fingertip save.
The game, and the title race, was now over as a contest and Sunderland were able to enjoy the last twenty minutes after the tension of the first half. They could have added to their lead, Williams miscuing a shot wide following a good run and cross by Joice and substitute Rebekah Bass firing narrowly wide after cutting in from the left, before the final whistle was greeted with jubilant scenes.
The Sunderland players re-emerged from the tunnel to a guard of honour from the Millwall Lionesses players - who deserve a lot of praise for their sporting attitude after the game - and captain Steph Bannon received the new trophy from Thura KT Win to mark their fourth Championship in as many years.
Millwall Lionesses: Sarah Quantrill, Chantelle Mackie, Frankie Strugnell, Lilli Maple, Naomi Cole, Kylie Davies, Francesca Ali, Lily Agg, Lillie Fenlon-Billson, Ciara Sherwood, Leanne Cowan. Subs not used: Frankie Gibbs, Cherrelle Albert, Kim Stenning.
Sunderland: Rachael Laws, Abby Holmes, Vicki Greenwell, Rachel Furness (sub Natalie Gutteridge 74mins), Steph Bannon, Hayley Sharp, Keira Ramshaw (sub Emma Kelly 89mins), Kelly McDougall, Beth Mead, Abbey Joice, Sophie Williams (sub Rebekah Bass 86mins). Subs not used: Helen Alderson, Gemma Wilson, Megan Beer.
(top) Lillie Fenlon-Billson takes on Steph Bannon and Keira Ramshaw
(middle) Abbey Joice fires home the fourth goal
(bottom) Sunderland - FA WSL 2 Champions
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