Southampton sparkle on opening Championship weekend

Southampton produced a sparkling performance to kick off the 2023-24 Barclays Women’s Championship season in style. 

The Saints were the only team to score more than one goal in a 4-1 win over Lewes, as Blackburn Rovers also pulled off an impressive 1-0 win over Birmingham City. 

Saints on song 

Southampton started their Barclays Women’s Championship season with a bang as they defeated Lewes 4-1. 

The hosts had taken the lead through a delicious strike from Hollie Olding only for the Saints to hit straight back through Katie Wilkinson. 

Kayla Rendell denied Olding a second as the debutant ran onto the ball at the edge of the box and fired low before the Saints moved into the lead as Sophia Pharoah headed home on 35 minutes.

It was more of the same in the second half as Gemma Purfield set up substitute Morris who volleyed home five minutes after coming on for the Saints. 

Molly Pike, who joined from Leicester City this summer, got a goal on debut as Morris turned provider, squaring the ball back for the midfielder to rifle home on 65 minutes to put the game to bed. 

Rovers deliver in front of record crowd 

Megan Hornby scored the first goal of the new Barclays Women’s Championship season as Blackburn Rovers beat last season’s second-place side Birmingham City 1-0 to start the season on Saturday night. 

Rovers were the brightest team early on, while it took time for the visitors to settle into the match as Lily Agg came closest for them with an attempt easily saved by Alexandra Brooks in the 25th minute.

Five minutes into the second half the hosts got their deserved reward through Hornby as the striker broke through Birmingham’s defence and with plenty of space, slotted through Lucy Thomas’ legs. 

Agg came closest to the equaliser for Birmingham but her header was held by Brooks as Blackburn closed out an impressive victory in front of a record crowd at Ewood Park. 

Hughes the hero for Palace 

Crystal Palace and Reading shared the spoils in a dramatic 1-1 draw with two late goals to start their BWC campaigns with a point each.  

Sanne Troelsgaard and Annabel Blanchard had the best chances in the early stages as Lauren Wade’s long-range strike was tipped over by Natalia Negri on half-time.   

In the 88th minute, Deanna Cooper scored off a spilled ball by Negri from a corner kick to get their first-ever BWC goal having been relegated from the Barclays Women’s Super League last season.

Palace denied the Royals a first win too, as in a breathless end to the game Hughes’ header from Fliss Gibbons’ cross went beyond Emily Orman to level in the 102nd minute. 

Rayner rescues a point 

Rebecca Rayner’s wonder goal snatched a point for Sheffield United as they drew 1-1 with Charlton Athletic. 

The Addicks withstood early pressure from the Blades before Kayleigh Green fired the home side in front at The Valley having pounced onto a poor back pass. 

Isobel Goodwin impressed on debut for Sheffield United, almost scoring from a backpass herself before forcing Sian Rogers to backpedal as her cross-turned-shot just sailed over the bar.

There was nothing Rogers could do to deny Rayner, who dispossessed Mia Ross before rifling home to earn a hard-fought point for the Blades. 

Watford draw on return 

Carly Johns scored on her debut as Watford gave plenty of indications at Grosvenor Vale that they will be no pushovers having been promoted from the third tier with a 1-1 draw. 

Durham gave their hosts a torrid start to life back in the Championship by going ahead in the second minute when Saoirse Noonan’s superb pass put through Mollie Lambert, who finished confidently.

The Golden Girls drew level after 34 minutes when Johns raced onto Coral Haines’ long pass before looping the ball over Naoisha McAloon and beyond Becky Salicki on the line. 

Amy Andrews should have snatched victory for the visitors with five minutes left when she rounded Clark, only to shoot against the outside of the post. 

Honours even for the Lasses and Lionesses 

Sunderland and London City Lionesses kicked off their campaigns with an entertaining 0-0 draw at Eppleton. 

Katie Kitching proved a nuisance for her former employers, having signed for the Wearsiders from the Lionesses in the summer – drilling a powerful effort straight at the keeper within 30 seconds. 

The north-east side continued to threaten after the break and wasted a glorious opportunity in the 58th minute – substitute Katy Watson rounding the onrushing Moloney and squaring it to Scarr, but she somehow skewed it wide.

And Watson failed to take an arguably better chance in added time when she was sent through one-on-one with Moloney – the visiting keeper stood strong and made the save with her right boot. 

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