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Wolves triumph in title battle
 Women's Football WPL Division 1 Midlands News - 2 Jun 2017
WPL Division 1 Midlands News - Wolves triumph in title battle - 2 Jun 2017 - Women's Football News
Wolverhampton Wanderers are celebrating returning to the Northern Division of the FA Women's Premier League after two years away following a tight title battle with Loughborough Foxes, which eventually saw them crowned as Midlands Division One Champions.
Wolves needed to do it the hard way, spending most of the season chasing after the teams above them and did not lead the table at any stage until their penultimate match of the campaign.
Tim Dudding took over in October from Manager Steve Cullis, who made way to take on the role of Player Development Manager at the club's new Regional Talent Centre. He joined with Wolves in second place in the table behind Loughborough Foxes, and then spent the entire season chasing the elusive top spot.
With Wolves also doing well in the SSE Women's FA Cup, the League Cup and the Birmingham County Cup, they fell behind in fulfilling their league fixtures, while Foxes continued their impressive run, maintaining the top spot. In fact Foxes only lost four league games all season, including both of their league games against Wolves (as well as the FA Cup game).
As the end of the season approached, Wolves were playing catch-up with their games in hand and, having beaten Foxes on 26th April and Radcliffe Olympic on 30th, they headed into May four points behind Foxes with one game in hand. At this point the title was in Foxes' hands, but on 4th May they were beaten by Radcliffe Olympic, handing Wolves the opportunity to take the title if they could win all three of their remaining games - which were all away.
The first of these on 7th May was a convincing 5-1 win against Steel City Wanderers. Then they played their game in hand on 11th May against Loughborough Students, winning 3-0 and finally taking the top spot, but at the expense of captain Anna Perks who broke her collarbone during the game. With Dudding having made all of his substitutions, the team had to play the last fifteen minutes with only ten players - and did so with grit and determination, maintaining their clean sheet. In fact they were already feeling the effects of injury with influential midfielder Dom Luke out for the final five games of the season, and defender Vicky Brackenbury breaking her nose against Steel City Wanderers.
This set up a nervy final day of the season with Wolves two points clear at the top of the table, knowing that a win would guarantee promotion, while Foxes were hoping that Wanderers would slip up. Foxes did all they could, winning their game against Sporting Khalsa, while Wolves had a tense game against Leicester City, who were themselves fighting for survival, but Wolves made their one goal count and sealed all three points and promotion.
It hasn't been an easy first season for Dudding, with injuries and a fixture backlog to contend with, but throughout his mantra has been "one game at a time", which he was still saying as his team went into the final decisive game.
Jade Cross was the team's leading scorer with 26 goals to her name, whilst her twin sister Emma - not the first twins that Wolves Women have been noted for - was voted as Player of the Season and scored the title clinching goal.
"A season full of excitement and unpredictability would summarise our road to the title," says captain Anna Perks. "Beating Loughborough Foxes, away from home both in the FA Cup followed by in the league early on in the season, were fantastic results and ones that kept our belief going throughout the season that we could potentially win the league.
"With a couple of unfortunate results against Solihull and Long Eaton away, where we struggled to make the most of our possession and take our chances, set the league up for an exciting ending final four weeks.
"The highlight for me was the 3-2 win at home to Loughborough Foxes which closed the gap on their lead. This set us up nicely for our final four games - Steel City away in the closing week of the season, was where we played our best football, with an Amber Quick hat-trick within the first half. This took us into Loughborough Students away with the pressure on, as winning there would put us top for the first time this season with one game to go. It was a tough game playing on a narrow pitch, and the pressure on to get the win. Eventually we broke them down with a terrific strike from Jen Anslow and the game ended 3-0, setting us up nicely for the final game of the season with Leicester to clinch the title.
"Nerves were high and Leceister had a lot to play for with the risk of relegation if they lost and results didn't go their way. Both teams battled in a game that was overall dominated by us but Leicester did threaten and initially we found it hard to create any clear cut chances. The second half, however, great play down the right saw Emma Cross pull the ball back to Laura McQuilken who struck from distance, hitting underneath the bar and potentially over the line, however Emma Cross made sure slotting the rebound past the keeper to crown us champions!"
"It's been a phenomenal season, but we took one game and did what looked like being impossible," added manager Tim Dudding. "For me the standout results were TNS away on 29th January in tremendously difficult conditions, but we battled hard for a 1-0 win, and Radcliffe at home on 2nd April when we knew only a win would do to keep us on track, and it took grit and determination to secure a 3-2 victory.
"The girls showed commitment, ability and a fantastic attitude and I'm proud and elated to have led them to success in my first season at Wolves."
Photo - Simon Faulkner

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