Bridgwater United 0-2 Southampton

SOUTHAMPTON FC Women left Fairfax Park with all three points on Sunday afternoon after a hard-fought contest against Bridgwater United.

Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s Saints entered this twice-delayed fixture buoyed by FA and League Cup victories against Bristol City and Hashtag United, while Bridgwater’s last outing was a 0-0 home draw in the league against Gillingham.

The Saints started brightly and, in the seventh minute, Bridgwater goalkeeper Beth Howard was called into action to deny Leeta Rutherford with an athletic save to tip the ball over the crossbar.

Moments later, Southampton’s Lucia Kendall's shot from from just outside the penalty area went over the bar, before Bridgwater centre-back Amy Goddard did well to block a goal-bound effort from Sophia Pharoah as the Robins endured early pressure from the visitors.

Bridgwater’s first chance came in the 13th minute of play when Meesha Dudley-Jones spotted Southampton goalkeeper Kayla Rendell off her line, but her speculative effort went just over. 

Ten minutes later, the Robins had their clearest opening of the match when Arsenal loanee Daisy Ackerman played through Nicky Potts, who fired over.

Southampton continued to threaten in the challenging conditions as the first half drew to a close, and it took a fantastic reflex save by Howard to deny Ella Pusey after she was played through one-one-one by Pharoah.

Moments later, Pusey headed the ball wide from a corner after being left unmarked in the area, before Howard came off her line quickly to dive at the feet of Southampton’s number nine to prevent her from getting a shot away.  

Southampton broke the deadlock on the stroke of half time when Pharoah got on the end of an excellent through ball to coolly finish past Howard into the far corner.

Just before the referee’s whistle blew, Howard was again required to deny Southampton’s goalscorer after Bridgwater gave the ball away inside their own half.

Despite Bridgwater starting the second half well, Southampton doubled their lead with a moment of brilliance in the 63rd minute when Pusey latched onto the end of a lofted pass from Rutherford to volley the ball beyond Howard and in off the post.

The home team had positive spells even after going two down, but they could not create any clear-cut opportunities to claw a goal back.

In the seventieth minute, the ball was cut back for Bridgwater captain Leah Burridge after some clever play down the left wing, but her driven shot was caught by Rendell.

Substitute Laura Holden added some much-needed energy for Bridgwater from the bench and she came close on two occasions, firstly with a curling effort the edge of the box that was easily dealt with by Rendell, and then with a shot from range that she could not keep down.

At full-time, Rob Liddiard, Bridgwater United’s head of academy and women’s under-21s lead coach, said: “Throughout the game, we had some really good spells. To go down 2-0 probably isn’t a fair reflection of the game.

“We were determined, we put tackles in, we got around the pitch well, and we had good spells of possession. Overall, we’re quite pleased but at the same time, disappointed with the result.

He added: “The second goal is a wonder goal. The first goal was disappointing because we slipped on the pitch. You can’t really plan for that. They didn’t really carve us open.

“If you look at their side, they’ve got players who have played in the WSL and Championship. That’s what we aspire to be, but I don’t think they controlled the game. I think we had our fair share, and a 2-0 defeat is probably not a fair reflection on the game.”

Bridgwater United goalkeeper Beth Howard said: “I thought we were the better team in the second half. They’ve taken their chances well; the second goal especially was a bit of quality.

“We just couldn’t just get that last bit. I think we pressed really well, and we built up really well in the second half and the signs are there, we just need a bit more cutting edge.”

Bridgwater remain in sixth in the Women’s National League Southern Division Premier, while Southampton are in third with games in hand on Ipswich Town and Oxford United.