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Tottenham Hotspur 3 Blackburn Rovers 0
Tottenham Hotspur completed a superb season by winning the FAWPL Championship play-off with a 3-0 triumph over Northern Division champions Blackburn Rovers at Charlton Athletic FC.
Holding the Southern Division title and FAWPL League Cup winners, Spurs added the overall FAWPL champions trophy to their haul. Subject to licencing criteria being met, Spurs will start 2017-18 in the FA WSL as a result of a dominant team display in front of 826 spectators.
Understandably, there was a nervous start from both teams, but Tottenham were soon testing Rovers keeper Danielle Hill with early through balls for Bianca Baptiste and Ronnell Humes to chase. Hill was quick off her line twice to save at the feet of the Spurs forwards, then caught a testing Humes cross under pressure.
Blackburn had a promising spell midway through the half, Ella Toone got clear on the left and Saffron Jordan was just unable to get a touch to turn her pass into the net. Toone then threatened again moments later with a shot just wide of Toni-Anne Wayne's goal.
Spurs took the lead with a sharp 34th minute finish from Baptiste. Wendy Martin played a through pass which found Baptiste on the run to the right of goal and her instant reverse shot rolled past the advancing Hill and went in off the upright. Martin nearly added a second soon after, flicking a Baptiste cross just wide of the far post.
Lucia Leon, who had a superb match for Spurs on the right side, produced an outstanding moment just before the break. Tackling Toone close to the goal line, the wing back made a solo run through two thirds of the pitch, exchanged passes, then set up Martin on the edge of the Rovers area for a blocked shot.
Rovers needed to find some extra edge to their attack on the restart as Wayne had only really had a couple of dangerous crosses to catch in the first half. The pivotal moment in the match came just before the hour. Natasha Fenton sent in a lovely cross from the Rovers right which found Toone running in unmarked on the far post. Her close range header reached Jordan, whose instinctive effort rattled the post before bouncing to safety.
Relieved to be still leading, Spurs soon found the crucial breakthrough on 66 minutes. Player of the match Baptiste showed speed and strength to shrug off a tackle and took another early shot on the run, this time angling her effort wide of Hill's left hand from the right edge of the area.
A flurry of substitutions rather broke up the rhythm of the match as Spurs sought to manage their advantage and Rovers struggled to break down a very solid defence with little success. It was Martin who put the seal on a deserved win for the North Londoners in the final minute of normal time with an audacious 30 yard lob over Hill, sparking wild celebrations.
Blackburn Rovers' wonderful unbeaten league campaign will always be in the record books, but as Portsmouth and Sporting Club Albion had found before them, the play-off system is an unforgiving affair. Tottenham Hotspur. a club like Rovers with a fine record of developing home grown talent, found the level of performance to take the biggest prize in the winter pyramid.
Toni-Anne Wayne, Lucia Leon, Leah Rawle, Sophie McLean, Josie Green Bianca Baptiste, Wendy Martin, Jenna Schillaci, Renee Hector, Maya Vio, Ronnell Humes. Subs: Shannon Moloney, Eartha Pond, Riana Soobadoo, Kate O'Leary, Kelley Blanchflower.
Danielle Hill, Danielle Whitham, Lynda Shepherd, Kelsey Pearson, Jess Holbrook, Natasha Fenton, Saffron Jordan, Kayleigh McDonald, Ellie Stewart, Faye McCoy, Ella Toone. Subs: Alex Taylor, Hannah Fryer, Ria Montgomery, Emma Rankin, Ellie Cook.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Faye McCoy is challenged by Josie Green
(middle) Ronnell Humes tries to get past a challenge from Kelsey Pearson
(bottom) Tottenham Hotspur celebrate their victory
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