Hartlepool United Ladies clinched the Durham Women’s League Division One title with victory over Gateshead Rutherford Ladies.
The win maintained their perfect record for the campaign, and their 10th straight win was enough to give them an unbeatable lead at the top with four games remaining.
It’s been a magnificent season for everyone concernedAndy Stuart
Coach Andy Stuart said: “Considering our average age is 21 I think they can be forgiven for feeling a few nerves here and there during the run-in.
“We have made things difficult for ourselves on a number of occasions in recent weeks and Sunday was another example but thankfully we got the result we needed.
“It’s been a magnificent season for everyone concerned though so now we’re looking forward to finishing it off in style and then we’ll begin the planning for next year at a higher level,” Stuart told the club’s website.
Pools started the game at Gateshead well, passing the ball around with confidence in the early stages.
However, the hosts were up for the fight and showed their threat on 11 minutes when they opened the scoring despite Pools’ appeals for an offside flag.
The lead lasted only four minutes though, Jade Pye was in the right place as a corner fell to her and she smashed it in to the net to make it 1-1.
Five minutes before the break Pools got their noses in front for the first time when they counter-attacked from a Rutherford corner and, just two passes and six touches later, Robyn Ingram applied the finish.
Pools then had to defend against a series of corners and the home side managed to grab a leveller when an attempted clearance bounced off a defender and in to the net for 2-2.
Andy Stuart’s girls were to finish the half with a flourish though, and Pye ran through on the hosts’ defence to score brilliantly on 45 minutes.
Then Sarah Bartlett pounced on a rebound after the ball had struck the bar to make it 4-2 to Pools deep in to first half injury time.
Pools then struggled to totally kill the game off, with several chances in front of goal coming and going before substitute Lucy Hammond-Garrington made an immediate impact from the bench by scoring the fifth goal.
Rutherford scrambled a goal back in the final seconds of the game with a terrific long-range strike but by then the celebrations were already starting for Pools.
The victory means that Hartlepool United Ladies will compete in the North East Regional Women’s Football League Premier Division during 2016/17.
Pools: Robertson, Bartlett (Ingold 63), Bates (Ord 70), Henderson (Lambert 46), Stuart, Rowbotham, Barr (Corner 63), Robinson, Pye, Ingram (Hammond-Garrington 60), Dawson.
Pools’ final home game is on May 15 at Hartlepool Power Station (KO 1.30pm and play their League cup Semi-final on May 8 at the same venue (KO1.30pm) and welcome supporters to help get to team to the final.