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Havant & Waterlooville 5 Norwich City 1
Havant & Waterlooville earned the right to challenge Gillingham for their place in the Premier League with a 5-1 win over Norwich City in their Southern play-off semi final at Enfield on Sunday.
Two early goals gave the Hawks a huge boost but they had to fight off a spirited Norwich revival before pulling away with some excellent finishing in the second half.
A pair of right wing corners gave Havant and Waterlooville a two-goal lead within ten minutes. Scrambles in the six yard box led to Hawks skipper Laura Oakes and then Jess Lewry getting the final touches after reacting more quickly than the Canaries defence.
Between these two goals, Sadie Blakeley had made a smart save from a mis-directed defensive header. City then tried to fight back through Paige Shorten who was foiled by a good save by Blakeley on 18 minutes after outpacing the Hawks back line. Stacie Murray nearly added a third for Hawks, who looked dangerous every time they attacked in the first half hour.
As half time approached, however, Norwich came right back into the game, with Shorten and Chelsea Garrett in particular opening up the Hawks defence. Shorten had a corner well saved by Blakeley, but when Garrett got clear of the last defender on 43 minutes the Hawks keeper brought her down, at the expense of a penalty and a caution. Shorten converted the spot kick and within a minute came very close to equalising, just failing to turn the ball home after breaking clear on the left edge of the area. Back came Hawks in an exciting end to the half, with Chloe Ranger shooting wide when well placed.
Any plans that Norwich had to maintain their revival were scuppered within two minutes of the restart. Picking up a Norwich goal kick in the centre circle, Becki Bath drove past two tackles and launched a
superb 30-yard lob over the retreating Clarke for an excellent third Hawks goal.
Clarke was out quickly to deny Jess Lewry and Charley Wilson shot just over as Hawks dominated the early minutes after the break. Shorten nearly reduced the deficit when her free kick from just outside the area struck the bar after she had been brought down in full flight.
Within two minutes, Hawks sealed the win when Wilson held the ball up well before playing in Ranger for a cool finish on 67 minutes. An injury to and subsequent substitution of the excellent Shorten reduced the Canaries' attacking potential and Hawks added a fifth when the hard working Wilson prodded in a loose ball from a scramble resulting from a Bath shot afer a corner.
Kaylee Schumann-Edwards headed just wide from three yards and substitute Lizzie Laws shot just over from 30 yards as Hawks threatened to put an unreal gloss on the scoreline in the final moments.
Norwich City Ladies will not be following their male counterparts' rise into the Premier League this season but Hawks march on and will play Gillingham next Sunday at Cheshunt to determine the final team in the Southern Division line up next season.
Havant & Waterlooville: Sadie Blakeley, Kim Hier, Lauren Cheshire, Becki Bath, Laura Oakes, Kaylee Schumann-Edwards, Chloe Ranger, Stacie Murray, Jess Lewry, Charley Wilson, Jenna Fowlie Subs: Lizzie Laws, Laura Streeter, Lavinia Nkomo, Sam Stone.
Norwich City: Holly Clarke, Anna Larkins, Jordan Arnoup, Danielle Manthorpe, Danielle Parsons, Kath Thacker, Gemma Farman, Charlie Branch, Chelsea Garrett, Kirstie Kindred, Paige Shorten. Subs: Bridie Hipperson, Bex Burton, Jenny Harrison, Hayley Peverley.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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