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Sheffield FC 1 (Giampalma 90) Portsmouth 0
Sheffield FC are heading for the FA WSL following a dramatic victory over Portsmouth in the FA Women's Premier League Championship play-off at Stratford.
Lisa Giampalma scored a superbly taken goal in the second minute of injury time to settle an enthralling clash which remained in the balance until the end. However Sheffield had been grateful to goalkeeper Claire Wallhead for two brilliant saves in a five-minute spell during the second half to keep their side in the game before the late goal.
There was a early scare for Sheffield as a clearance from Wallhead was charged down by Charley Wilson, the ball appeared to be goalbound but backspin prevented it from going in and Danielle Cox hacked it away from in front of goal.
Sheffield hit back with Emma Johnson sliding a good pass into the path of Giampalma who lifted the ball over Courtney Trodd but into the side netting. Carla Ward stole in to get on the end of an Ellie Gilliatt free kick but volleyed over and Amy Beanland shot wide following another good pass from Johnson.
Portsmouth had had plenty of the early play without really troubling the Sheffield goal until just before the half hour, when Lucy Quinn pressed and dispossessed Cox before her shot was saved by Wallhead.
Back came Sheffield and they created the best chance so far as Ward's pass released Jodie Michalska on goal, however the normally lethal striker sent her left foot shot wide of the goal. Johnson was in excellent form in midfield and a good turn on the edge of the area ended up with her curling a shot goalwards but Trodd reacted well to palm the ball over the bar.
Pompey captain Charley Wilson was working hard up front with some strong running and after breaking into the area, her cross was punched away by Wallhead as far as Jess Frampton who drove her shot wide. Sarah Kempson then drilled a shot straight at Wallhead as Portsmouth became more dangerous as an attacking force.
Ward forced a save from Trodd after a Gilliatt cross was half cleared but despite enterprising play from both sides, the scoreline was goalless at the interval.
Sheffield came out strongly at the start of the second half and attacked down the flanks with Gilliatt in particular making some fine overlapping runs down the left. Michalska lifted a free kick harmlessly over the bar but the Portsmouth defence, in which Molly Clark and Eilidh Currie both excelled, stood firm under the early pressure.
One Gilliatt run down the left ended with her whipping in a cross which was not dealt with by Trodd under pressure, the ball falling for Beanland who dragged her shot wide. Moments later, Ward headed over from a Gilliatt corner.
Sheffield were to go even closer from an Abbie McIver cross, Johnson nipping in to beat Trodd to the ball but the midfielder was off balance and found the angle too tight, her shot hitting the side netting.
Portsmouth held on under the pressure and began to push forward themselves, twice going close to breaking the deadlock. Frampton had earlier made a good run down the right and cut the ball across the face of goal but no team mate was on hand to force the ball home.
Quinn then made a similar run breaking into the area where her lob looked to have beaten a backpedalling Wallhead but the keeper somehow managed to get a hand to the ball to claw it out and pounced on it before a Pompey player could follow up.
Four minutes later, a Kempson shot was deflected into the path of Wilson in front of goal. The striker looked certain to score but she was denied by a point blank save from Wallhead, who threw herself in front of the shot.
The game flowed from end to end as both teams sought a winner and Sheffield were next to go close, Kerry Parkin's through ball putting McIver clear on goal but she fired her shot over the bar.
Extra time was looking inevitable and the players on both sides were starting to look tired but as the game went into injury time, Sheffield were to have the last say. Michalska's flick put Giampalma through and she showed great composure in taking the ball round Trodd before sliding it into the back of the empty net to give her side the lead.
Portsmouth tried to hit back in the time remaining and won a free kick in an attacking position but the excellent Cox dealt with the danger and Sheffield were able to run down the clock.
The Sheffield players celebrated wildly on the final whistle while the shattered Portsmouth players sank to the turf. The game had been a wonderful advert for the Premier League between two fine teams but the day belonged to Sheffield and Giampalma, their longest serving player.
Sheffield FC: Claire Wallhead, Lynn Goodman, Ellie Gilliatt, Amy Beanland (sub Abbie McIver 65mins), Danielle Cox, Billie Murphy, Emma Johnson, Jodie Michalska, Lisa Giampalma, Carla Ward, Kerry Parkin. Subs not used: Nikki Hogg, Aimee Johnson, Suzanne Davies.
Portsmouth: Courtney Trodd, Jess Frampton, Nadine Bazan (sub Tiff Taylor 70mins), Ellie Bloomfield (sub Liz O'Callaghan 87mins), Eilidh Currie, Molly Clark, Sarah Kempson, Shannon Sievwright, Gemma Hillier, Charley Wilson, Lucy Quinn. Sub not used: Jodie Goodall.
(top) Lisa Giampalma scores the winning goal for Sheffield
(middle) Ellie Gilliatt gets in a cross past Lucy Quinn
(bottom) Sheffield celebrate with the trophy
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