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Coventry City ended a long quest for a place in the Premier League on Sunday by clinching the Midland Combination title with four games to spare.
The Sky Blues won the league in the best possible manner by beating their only challengers, Sporting Club Albion, 3-0 on their own Tipton Sports Academy pitch. After three consecutive second place finishes in an always competitive league, City have recorded a near perfect season so far with eighteen wins and a single drawn match, away at Wolves in October.
Playing with the strong breeze, Coventry made the perfect start with a goal inside four minutes. Jade Formaston swung in an inviting cross from the right and Emily Hanson stole in behind a hesitant defence to volley home from six yards.
Helen Dermody nearly doubled the advantage, driving a shot inches wide from the edge of the area after a Formaston corner was half cleared. Albion, who have had a fine season themselves, came back with Hayley Phillipowsky forcing a fine save from Netty Manca, then almost forcing home the rebound.
Coventry were playing some excellent passing football with Robyn James leading the attack in fine style. Natalie Hall in the Albion goal was forced to show fine handling in claiming several crosses as Coventry attacked down both flanks. One cross was handled in the area on 36 minutes. but Leanne McKenna lofted the resulting penalty high over the bar. James volleyed a Dermody cross inches wide just before the break as Coventry dominated but could not calm their nerves with a second goal.
Albion's Phillipowsky nearly made the champions elect pay straight away on the restart as she was through on goal but Manca made another fine block. The home side tried to play in their star striker with long balls over the top, but Natasha Lynch and Gemma Clarke in central defence were vigilant and Albion were unable to mount concerted pressure.
Coventry's crucial second came about halfway through the second half when a long free kick earned by some excellent Dermody skill was allowed to bounce in the area and James capped a fine match by flicking a header wide of Hall.
City relaxed and started to move the ball around as they had done before the break. Promotion was confirmed when Formaston was fouled in the area and Dermody stepped up to drive the spot kick, only to be foiled by an excellent Hall save, but followed up to smash the rebound past the unfortunate keeper.
Albion battled on and came close on a couple of occasions to scoring a consolation but it was Coventry's day and they celebrated with champagne and celebratory banner proclaiming their promotion to the soon to be constituted Premier League for the 2010-11 season.
Few could begrudge this well run club with so many home grown players their chance to test themselves in a higher division after so many near misses in recent years, especially after such an outstanding season. Ironically the club had a nightmare pre-season, losing their first three matches conceding fourteen and not scoring a single goal...could this be the recipe for success?!
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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