Perry Northeast has now finished his reign as Portsmouth Ladies manager. The former Chichester City defender originally took over as Blues boss in 2013 in a co-manager role with Katy Poore, but announced he would leave the club just over a week ago.
In his three years in the hot seat he has won the Hampshire Challenge Cup on three occasions, got as far as the quarter-finals in the FA Cup and guided Pompey to the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division.
This season, Northeast has led his team to fourth in the league – although they could still be overtaken by Coventry who have two games in hand – and he bowed out in style with a 2 – 1 win over Cardiff City in his final game.
The away side looked sharp early on, and a last-ditch tackle was all that stopped Hannah Mills from finding herself clean through on goal within the first three minutes. Pompey registered their first shot on target when Molly Clark got her free kick over the wall, but it was easily dealt with by ‘keeper Alesha McGlynn.
The home team threatened again when a corner was headed back across the box by Leeta Rutherford and Sherwood’s effort had to be blocked. Minutes later, Nadine Bazan turned inside the box and curled her shot well wide.
Looking rattled, McGlynn then conceded possession and, after latching on to the loose ball, Sherwood slotted just past the post. McGlynn was then almost lobbed by Gemma Hillier, but the attempt went over the bar.
Some slightly nervous defending at the other end of the pitch gave Jemma Heath the chance to nip in, but her challenge on Pompey goalie Michelle Beazley didn’t quite trickle into the back of the net. Beazley then denied Chloe Lloyd, who had been put through on goal, by charging out of the penalty box and superbly saving with her feet.
Despite dominating for large periods of the first half, Pompey were put under pressure by Cardiff after the break. A lovely cross from Gemma Evans found Lloyd, who forced Beazley into making yet another stop, this time an impressive reflex save.
However, it was the home side who took the lead when Sherwood charged into the box and curled her shot into the far corner of the net.
It could have been two goals in less than five minutes when Lucy Quinn’s ball across the box eventually found its way to Sarah Kempson, who finished well past McGlynn. However, the referee’s whistle had already been blown for a foul in the build-up and the goal was chalked off.
The Blues did manage to find a second goal when Sievwright brilliantly lobbed McGlynn from the edge of the penalty area.
Cardiff battled to try and get back into the game and they eventually got their goal in injury time. A perfectly-hit free kick from Suominen gave Bleazley no chance as it sailed into the top corner. That spectacular goal turned out to be the last kick of the game.
After the match, Northeast said: “It couldn’t have worked out better to be honest. We had a real set game plan today and we were working intrinsically on Thursday night. I’m just really happy that the players put the practice into the performance and the result followed.
“I said to the players that we can play this how we want – we can play this as an end-of-season game where nothing really means much, or you can play and you can show how desperate you are to put on the shirt and start for Portsmouth Ladies Football Club. As you can see in the performance, they chose the latter.”
The game certainly felt like the end of an era, but Northeast claims that despite not knowing his own future, he is certain there are good times ahead for Pompey Ladies.
“A bit stupidly, I’m a man without a plan! I’m due to study for my UEFA A Licence this summer, but that really is my only plan at the moment. This was just about knowing the right time to step down in this current post.
“I think it (the club) can only go up. We’ve got 40 players at this football club and I think they’re 40 of the best players in Hampshire, so I think there’s a bright future.”