Hartlepool United’s season may have ended in tears.
But a week after the heartbreak of the club’s relegation from the Football League, came the tears of joy.
We spoke before the game about winning our individual battles – we did that and we got the win we deservedANDY STUART
Pools Ladies clinched back-to-back promotions when they fought back from going a goal down against Sheffield Wednesday to beat the Owls 3-1 near York.
A wonder Jess Dawson strike and goals from Jussy Robinson and Nicky Duckling swept Pools to victory in the North East Regional Women’s Football League promotion play-off.
While Sheffield Wednesday’s men proved a nemesis for Pools in 2005 League One play-off final at the Millennium Stadium, there was no denying Andy Stuart’s team at the Wilberfoss Sports Ground.
“Apart from one moment when we switched off and they scored, I could not fault the girls,” said Stuart.
“From the first minute to the 90th, they were brilliant.
“Even after we went behind I could not see us getting beaten, I felt completely relaxed.
“I think Sheff Wed might have had a couple of half-chances but I thought we controlled the game.
“The girls looked assured and confident and were playing good football with a lot of possession, the only surprise was that we didn’t add to the goal tally in the second half.
“We spoke before the game about winning our individual battles – we did that and we got the win we deserved.
“After the recent disappointments we were determined to win – and that was what they did. They are a fantastic bunch of girls that can progress even higher if they set their mind to it.”
The first 15 minutes of the battle of the NERWFL north and south runners-up saw Pools take the game to their opponents, penning them into their own half.
Despite the pressure and possession, Pools could not quite create an opening.
The Owls went ahead in the 20th minute following a free-kick just inside Pools half.
The quickly-taken award somehow found its way through to a Sheffield player on the edge of the box and she turned and shot past Chloe Biggs before being challenged.
Pools were frustrated but set about the job and were level within 10 minutes.
Robinson broke superbly, going past two defenders and despite being forced wide, she continued her run beating another defender before crossing the ball to the far post where Dawson was waiting to superbly volley home.
And Pools went ahead when Robinson went from creator to scorer in the 35th minute.
She again joined the attack from centre-half and found herself on the edge of the Wednesday area. Receiving the ball, she went around a defender and then lobbed the keeper.
Pools were soon in ecstasy when Duckling made it three following some smart play by Biggs. He stand-in keeper made a save before showing great skill and awareness to send the ball quickly forward for the forward to chase.
Having outpaced two defenders , Duckling got to the ball first and slid it underneath the keeper to make it 3-1.
The second half was a closer affair and although Pools enjoyed the majority of possession they were unable to capitalise and score any more goals, the Sheffield goalie pulling off saves to deny Duckling, Jade Pye and Laura Wilson.
Wednesday had a series of free-kicks in the final 15 minutes but these were dealt with comfortably by the defence.
The whole squad deserve praise but special mention must go to Biggs, usually a forward, who took the keeper’s gloves and produce a faultless display.
“With our season over at the start of April, our keeper, Abbie Richardson booked a holiday for May,” Stuart explained. “Chloe is a centre-forward but is a natural sportswoman. She has good technique and she can handle the ball.
“Chloe was a bit apprehensive but we had total confidence in her, she was commanding. She even had an assist for Nicky’s goal when she launched the ball downfield!”
Pools: Chloe Biggs, Jenni Duffy-Smith, Faye Garside (Jo Hurrell 70), Jussy Robinson, Sarah Rowbotham, Emily Stuart (Laura Wilson 70), Lottie Portas (Jade Pye 46), Chelsea Basnett,
Nicola Duckling (Sarah Bartlett 60), Amy Cowan (Hannah Lambert 46), Jess Dawson