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Emily Stanghon struck a hat-trick as Fulham Compton defeated Hampstead 3-1 in the Russell Cup Final at Stockwood Park.
The game, between two sides who had finished as runners-up in their respective divisions, was a closely fought affair and Fulham's superior finishing proved to be the difference on the day.
Hampstead created the first opportunity of the game as Claire Arnold broke through and managed to take the ball past the oncoming Lianne Tylee but, with two defenders covering, she was unable to find the target with her shot. Fulham hit back with Natasha Randall unleashing a dipping 30-yard shot which Laura Mifsud clawed away, play being waved on despite Fulham's claims that the ball had crossed the line.
However Fulham took the lead on 25 minutes, an inswinging Dani Kemp corner was not held by Mifsud and Stanghon was on hand to sweep the ball home from six yards.
Hampstead's response was immediate, Arnold sliding a neat through ball into the path of Val Toro who ran through on goal and held off a challenge before sliding the ball past Tylee but also past the post.
Fulham finished the first half on top and went close to doubling their lead on half time as another Kemp corner was flicked on for Stanghon whose half volley cleared the bar.
Three minutes into the second half, Hampstead were back on level terms. Toro laid the ball off into the path of Arnold whose initial shot was blocked by Tylee but Arnold followed to force the rebound home for the equaliser.
With the hard working Char Blackmore prompting in midfield, Hampstead enjoyed their best spell of the game but it was Fulham who were next to go close, a 25-yard free kick by Julie Walters hitting the bar.
Fulham began to grow strong again and went back in front midway through the second half. A Kemp corner was bundled away by the Hampstead defence to the edge of the area where Stanghon coolly drove her shot through a crowd of players and past the diving Mifsud to find the corner of the net.
Randall and Kemp assumed control of the midfield area once again and the introduction of Pauline McVey gave Fulham extra impetus up front. McVey was quickly in action, forcing Mifsud to save after latching onto a long ball from Kemp and Jenna Kinnear was narrowly off target with a volley. Hampstead were far from finished though and a good run down the right by Arnold saw her pick out Meroulla Lazarou whose shot was saved by Tylee.
However Hampstead's hopes of a recovery were killed off eight minutes from time following a moment of brilliance from Stanghon. Receving a throw in from Randall in the area, the striker turned and volleyed an unstoppable shot over Mifsud and into the back of the net to complete her hat-trick.
McVey passed up a glorious chance to increase the lead when she fired over the bar from six yards following good work by Donya Wilson. Hampstead did not give up but the Fulham defence, in which captain Tanya Hoffman and Natalie Marijetic excelled, kept things tight to see them home and land the club's first ever trophy since their formation six years ago.
Fulham Compton: Lianne Tylee, Clare Gunning (sub Donya Wilson 45mins), Natalie Marijetic, Becky O'Brien, Natasha Randall, Tanya Hoffman, Allana Ashmeil (sub Pauline McVey 68mins), Dani Kemp, Julie Walters, Emily Stanghon, Jenna Kinnear.
Hampstead: Laura Mifsud, Ellie Bard, Milly Jones (sub Kate Freeman 79mins), Mo Gray, Lins Roberts (sub Emma Wragg 86mins), Zena Coffey, Char Blackmore, Claire Arnold, Val Toro, Rhi Gladman (sub Meroulla Lazarou 68mins), Sheri Benatar.
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