Hastings United Women are champions - 11 months after formation
Wow! What a way to be crowned champions - and in their first season together.
Hastings United Women secured a first-season promotion in dramatic circumstances, recovering from being 0-2 and 1-3 down to win 4-3 against title rivals Montpelier Villa to secure the title with one game to spare. Rosie Muggeridge's first for the Us, two Molly Hill penalties and an absolute pearler from Georgia Tibble secured the win.
Before the game the maths was simple. The winners of this game would be champions, for even though Hastings had an extra game still to play, Villa were a point ahead. A draw would take it to Hastings' final game.
The start was a scrappy one, with neither side able to put together a string of passes. The opening goal came after a quarter of an hour. The defence didn’t cover themselves in glory as a speculative cross fell kindly for the Montpelier forward, who, despite her height disadvantage, took the ball down well and curled into the far corner from close range. An early opener to change the dynamic of the match.
Things returned to their previous ding dong battle status. The Us' main threat was from Tibble, who was bamboozling the Montpelier defence frequently with her unreal footwork. She was rotating with Faye Williams in order to try to keep Villa on their toes, but it would unfortunately be Villa who would strike the next blow.
What looked an excellent Muggeridge tackle was deemed not so by the referee - but there was nothing wrong with the resulting free kick, which, in all fairness, was an absolute corker, curled over the wall and into the top corner. With a few minutes left until half-time, Villa had doubled their lead.
But the Us would halve it in stoppage time. A short corner routine ended up with Tibble having a curling effort which was parried away by the goalkeeper, but the rebound was exquisitely tucked into the corner by Muggeridge. A fine first goal in claret that changed the half-time team talks of both coaches.
HT : Hastings Utd 1-2 Montpellier Villa
The Us immediately came out all guns blazing. Head coach Andy Corrigan's key instruction to Georgia Tibble was to shoot. And after half a minute she weaved some space in the middle of the park and released a firecracker of an effort, which left the crossbar shaking. A start that set out exactly what the Us needed to do.
But, the challenge would take another turn for the worse after 58 minutes. A lack of communication at the back led to Blair Hamilton smashing a clearance off of Lauren Sharp which agonisingly trickled into the back of the net. It just began to feel like it wasn’t the Us day. It was 1-3 with just over half an hour to go.
But this is Hastings - and that was not the end of the story. As the game went on, and the Us piled on the pressure. Montpellier were clearly starting to buckle under the pressure, and their first in-box infringement was in the 81st minute, committing a clear handball. Hill stepped up and she made no mistake, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. Back to 2-3.
And, that was the start of something magic. The pressure resumed, and four minutes later a cynical challenge gave the Us another chance from the spot. And, just like a few minutes earlier, Hill stepped up, and put into the other corner to make it level at 3-3.
The hard work. The effort. The blood, sweat and tears. And it all culminated in one genius moment - step forward Tibble. After picking it up in midfield and getting it out from under her feet, she released a thunderbolt into the top corner. Cue pandemonium. Cue subs and staff on the pitch. Cue screams on the commentary. Cue the calls for the ref to blow the whistle for full time. Cue the title celebrations.
The Us had done it.
FT : Hastings Utd 4-3 Montpellier Villa
Ryan Segal's view: WE ARE GOING UP, SAID WE ARE GOING UP; WE ARE GOING UP, SAID WE ARE GOING UP.
United Women: Hamilton, Sharp (Buckley), Muggeridge, Reed, Corrigan (Sanderson), Carter, Relf ©, Payne, Tibble (★), Williams (Hannath), Hill.
Hastings finish the campaign at Roffey on Sunday - and what a campaign it has been.