Two-goal hero Kate Natkiel thanked Brighton’s fans for spurring them on to a comeback win against Sporting Club Albion to clinch The FA Women’s Premier League Championship play-off.
Leigh Dugmore had given Sporting the lead, but Southern Division champions Brighton were level through Natkiel shortly before the interval.
Brighton & Hove Albion 4-2 Sporting Club Albion
FA Women’s Premier League
Sunday 29 May 2016
Adams Park, Wycombe Wanderers FC
by Sam Tobin
The former Watford winger then edged her side ahead, sparking a frenetic period of three goals in seven minutes, Sophie Perry and Amy Taylor getting in on the act.
Karen Clough pulled a goal back for Sporting with two minutes remaining but it proved too little too late.
Natkiel said: “It’s amazing, I couldn’t think of anything better, I couldn’t ask for a better performance.
“All the fans that came to watch us, gave us their support – and I think we rose to the occasion and we gave them everything we had.
“Every single one of them was amazing. When you hear them when you’re going forward, it gives you all the confidence in the world and thanks to everyone for coming because they made the day for us.
“It has been a hard few months, but we really rose to it and we’ve come together as a team, as you can see, and we didn’t let anything get us down.”
Northern Division winners Sporting took the lead after 15 minutes when Dugmore coolly nodded home from six yards after Brighton were unable to clear a corner.
But Brighton deservedly levelled the game on 41 minutes through a piece of individual brilliance from Natkiel, who smashed one into the top corner from 25 yards to level the tie.
After a slow start to the second half, Brighton took the lead on 68 minutes with Natkiel’s second of the game thanks to a slice of good fortune. A Sporting clearance bounced into Natkiel’s path and she carried the ball forward before passing into the bottom corner.
Brighton extended their advantage after 73 minutes, when Perry curled a superb free-kick beyond Rebecca Thomas.
And the contest was over two minutes later, when Taylor’s glancing header looped into the top corner after good work on the left flank by Perry.
Substitute Clough got a consolation goal for Sporting Club in the 88th minute, but Brighton saw out the remainder of the game to land the silverware.
Sporting boss Graham Abercrombie said: “It was a full-hearted performance again, high energy, dynamic football, we created lots of chances.
“We put a really good side under lots of pressure and forced them into lots of errors.
“It was an even game for me but unfortunately the scoreline reads differently.
“We’ve lost a game, that’s all, we’ve lost one game, but this team as a group has a togetherness that’s unbreakable.
“This team will go again and again and again, not just next year, but for the next 10 years.”
Brighton are now eligible for promotion to the Women’s Super League, subject to meeting off-field licencing requirements. An announcement will be made shortly.
Brighton and Hove Albion (3-5-2): Faye Baker; Catherine Cooper, Vicky Ashton-Jones, Charley Boswell; Sophie Perry, Kirsty Barton, Charlotte Young, Hollie Olding, Lucy Somes; Amy Taylor, Kate Natkiel.
Substitutes: Ellie Dorey for Somes 80, Lisa Fulgence for Taylor 86, Danielle Rowe for Olding 90.
Substitutes not used: Phoebe Leitch, Nina Wilson.
Sporting Club Albion (4-4-2): Rebecca Thomas; Paige Crossman, Samantha Conroy, Kelly Darby, Kelly Highman; Stephanie Smith, Summer Holmes, Trina Greaves, Hazzana Parnell; Leigh Dugmore, Abigail Cottam.
Substitutes: Billie Haynes for Cottam 74, Karen Clough for Parnell 74.
Substitutes not used: Charlotte Edmunds, Amy Dicken, Kate Wright
Referee: Anthony Tankard