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Brighton & Hove Albion 4 (Natkiel 40,67, Perry 72, Taylor 74)
Sporting Club Albion 2 (Dugmore 14, Clough 87)
att 648; at Wycombe Wanderers FC
Brighton & Hove Albion were crowned as Champions of the FA Women's Premier League after beating Sporting Club Albion in a thrilling play-off match at Adams Park.
Three goals in an eight minute spell during the second half tipped the game the way of the Seagulls who are now promoted to the FA WSL, subject to them meeting the necessary criteria.
The opening minutes of the game were understandably cautious as the two teams settled down and it was Sophie Perry who created the first opening for Brighton with a good run from deep before firing a shot over the bar.
Sporting began to look the more threatening though with Leigh Dugmore hooking in a cross for Abi Cottam who headed over at full stretch but four minutes later, the Northern Division Champions were in the lead.
A Summer Holmes corner had initially been cleared by the Brighton defence but Sporting won back possession and Paige Crossman centred for Dugmore to steer a header into the corner of the net from eight yards.
Sporting continued to look dangerous going forward and a good run by Cottam ended with her cutting the ball back to the edge of the area for Holmes who drove her shot wide. Amy Taylor headed wide from a Kate Natkiel cross at the other end but at this stage, Cottam was causing problems with her pace and strength and the striker almost doubled her side's lead with another run which took her past three players before her shot came back off the post.
Brighton weathered the storm with both Kirsty Barton and Vicky Ashton-Jones playing well although Sporting went close again when Dugmore could not quite direct a header on target. A minute later, Natkiel picked the ball up inside the Sporting half and evaded two challenges before unleashing a 25-yard shot which sailed into the top corner with Becky Thomas rooted to the spot, given no chance.
Hollie Olding fired a shot over a minute later but Brighton were back on terms as the teams went into the half time interval.
The first opportunity of the second half went the way of Sporting as a cross from Crossman reached the far post where Trina Greaves slid in but her effort was narrowly wide. Back came Brighton with a free kick just outside the area where Perry lifted her shot over the bar.
Brighton were starting to get on top with the pace of Natkiel and Lucy Somes a big threat and Taylor impressing with her hold-up play up front. Olding was to try her luck again with a shot from outside the area, a low, skidding effort which was parried by Thomas but Stephanie Smith did well to clear the rebound under pressure from Taylor.
Two minutes later, a Kelly Darby clearance was charged down by Taylor and broke kindly for Natkiel who ran through on goal and kept her cool to slide the ball past Thomas and into the corner of the net to put her side in front for the first time.
Another five minutes elapsed and Brighton had taken a firm grip on the game. The Seagulls were awarded a free kick in a similar position to that twenty minutes earlier and this time, Perry lifted her shot over the wall and inside the post to make it 3-1.
Sporting made a double substitution, including replacing a limping Cottam, to try and change things round but Brighton were rampant at this stage. Perry made her way down the left and got to the line where, under pressure from Dugmore, she whipped in a cross for a stooping Taylor to glance a header inside the far post and spark wild celebrations from her team.
The same combination led to another chance but this time, Taylor's header was saved by Thomas. Sporting continued to attack though and their efforts brought reward with three minutes remaining. Dugmore's cross was nodded down by Smith and Karen Clough reacted quickest to slot the ball home from close range.
Sporting did get the ball in the net again through captain Darby but the goal was ruled out for offside, even though the defender had appeared to have made a run from deep. They continued to try and press for another goal but Brighton stood firm to avoid any chance of a nervy finish and celebrations could finally begin.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Faye Baker, Charley Boswell, Sophie Perry, Charlotte Young, Catherine Cooper, Vicky Ashton-Jones, Lucy Somes (sub Ellie Dorey 79mins), Kirsty Barton, Amy Taylor (sub Lisa Fulgence 86mins), Hollie Olding (sub Danielle Rowe 90mins), Kate Natkiel. Subs not used: Phoebe Leitch, Nina Wilson.
Sporting Club Albion: Becky Thomas, Stephanie Smith, Sammy Conroy, Summer Holmes, Kelly Darby, Kelly Highman, Paige Crossman, Trina Greaves, Abi Cottam (sub Karen Clough 72mins), Leigh Dugmore, Hazzana Parnell (sub Billie Haynes 72mins). Subs not used: Charlotte Edmunds, Amy Dicken, Kate Wright.
(top) Leigh Dugmore heads Sporting Club Albion in front
(middle) Sophie Perry takes on Kelly Darby
(bottom) Celebration time for Brighton
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