Southampton overcame a red card to leapfrog Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland at the top of the Barclays Women’s Championship on an entertaining weekend.
Saints led 1-0 when they were reduced to ten as Milly Mott was shown her marching orders, but they came through to earn a 2-0 win away to Watford.
That result, coupled with Sunderland being held at Birmingham and Blackburn Rovers being well beaten by Crystal Palace allowed Southampton to move top of the pile.
However just one point separates the top four at this early stage of the season.
Palace lay down a marker
The result of the weekend undoubtedly came at Ewood Park, where league leaders Blackburn Rovers were beaten 4-0 by Crystal Palace.
Rovers came into the game off the back of three straight wins, but quickly found themselves trailing after Shanade Hopcroft’s first goal for the Eagles.
— Crystal Palace F.C Women (@cpfc_w) October 8, 2023
And it got much, much better for the visitors in the second half, with Annabel Blanchard, Polly Doran and Molly-Mae Sharpe all scoring in the final 20 minutes to make it an emphatic success.
The victory leaves Palace on 11 points, one back from the leading trio but with a game in hand as one of the two remaining unbeaten sides in the division.
Numerical disadvantage no issue for Saints
Southampton were the biggest beneficiaries of Blackburn’s defeat, going top of the table despite playing down a woman for most of the second half.
Sophie Pharoah had put Saints in front midway through the first half, but Milly Mott was then shown her marching orders after bringing down Carly Johns when she was through on goal.
Despite that, it was Saints who got the second goal, Molly Pike wrapping up the points in the ninth minute of stoppage time.
What. A. Battle. ⚔️ [0-2] pic.twitter.com/PLkn4udW26
— Southampton FC Women (@SaintsFCWomen) October 8, 2023
Sunderland held by Blues
Sunderland could have gone top with a win away to Birmingham City but were held to a 1-1 draw thanks to Christie Harrison-Murray’s equaliser.
Mary McAteer had opened the scoring with a placed shot from Jessica Brown’s fizzing cross as Sunderland led 1-0 at the break.
But excellent work from Katie Dungate set up Blues skipper Harrison-Murray to level as Birmingham earned a crucial point.
— Sunderland AFC Women (@SAFCWomen) October 8, 2023
Late drama at Oakwood
Southampton were not the only side who left it late for goals, with two goals in the closing stages at Oakwood where Durham had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Charlton.
The visitors had taken the lead in the 86th minute through Sarah Robson, only for Charlton to earn a penalty nine minutes into added on time.
— Charlton Athletic Women (@CAFCWomen) October 8, 2023
Kayleigh Green made no mistake under the biggest pressure, firing home to ensure that Charlton remain above their opponents on the day.
Reading kick on
Reading registered a first win of the campaign last week against Durham and they backed it up with three more points against Lewes.
Taking on the bottom side, the Royals had to bide their time to find a breakthrough. Eventually it came though, with brilliant build-up play from Sanne Troelsgaard Nielsen making inroads before Tia Primmer reacting fastest to fire home with quarter of an hour remaining.
That was enough to clinch the three points and move Reading up to sixth in the table, just three points off the top three despite failing to win any of their first four games.
Can’t help but 💙 this team! pic.twitter.com/LguV0HLxkt
— Reading FC Women (@ReadingFCWomen) October 8, 2023
Image: Ben Roberts – The FA/The FA via Getty Images