Football romance is very much alive and kicking as demonstrated by Sheffield FC Ladies who beat Portsmouth 1-0 in the Championship Play Off Final at Stratford Town last Sunday.
The clash between the FA Women’s Premier League Northern and Southern Division champions for a place in the 2016 FA Women’s Super League 2 was closely fought and with the 90 minute mark reached and the deadlock still to be broken, extra time loomed large.
However, a stoppage time goal by Sheffield’s longest serving player Lisa Giampalma allowed Portsmouth virtually no time for a comeback and so Sheffield achieved their season-long objective of winning the right to play in the 2016 FAWSL.
Latching on to a flick by Jodie Michalska midway in the Portsmouth half about ten yards in from the right, Giampalma advanced towards the area. Molly Clark gave chase and matched Giampalma stride for stride as Pompey keeper Courtney Trodd came off her line.
The efforts of the Portsmouth duo proved to no avail as Giampalma skipped past Trodd and from a tight-ish angle steered a shot home.
Substitute Abbie McIver might have scored several minutes earlier from a similar style run, but she chose to shoot from 22 yards, her shot going justover.
Teenager Trodd did not let her side down. She narrowed the angle and forced Amy Beanland to prod the ball just wide on 19 minutes, while later in the half she excelled with a fine save to keep out top scorer Michalska.
Sheffield were indebted to keeper Claire Wallhead for two fine saves in the last quarter. She managed to keep out an up and under from Lucy Quinn and denied Portsmouth captain Charley Wilson with an excellent close-range stop by Wallhead who had recorded 10 clean sheets in 20 league appearances.
Sheffield had the better of overall play, but it is goals which count and Sheffield made it count when it mattered most.
Sheffield: Wallhead, Cox, Murphy, Gilliatt, Giampalma, Ward, Parkin, Goodman, Beanland (McIver), Michalska, E Johnson. Subs not used: Hogg, A Johnson, Davies.
If you were going to script the rise and rise of a football team from the lowest level of the pyramid to just below the summit, then Sheffield’s history proves that fact can outdo fiction.
While Sheffield’s promotion is subject to meeting licensing criteria, they are in a much stronger all round position to do so than in 2013 when their application to become part of the expanded WSL was unsuccessful.
The FA have been working closely with all the teams who were likely to go up, so it is not a case of having to rush anything off the field. The FA fully expect Sheffield to satisfy the necessary requirements when they make their final presentation and licence submission on June 10.
So, assuming there are no hitches then Sheffield will join Doncaster Rovers Belles in the WSL. Whether the local pair are both in WSL 2 next year depends on if Belles win promotion to WSL 1. Belles have been the top team locally for over 40 years with over half as one of the leading teams nationally.
Back in 2003 when Sheffield were formed, the possibility of being in the same league as Belles would have seemed fanciful.
Belles had finished 2002-03 as FAWPL National Division runners-up behind Fulham.