Tractor Girls hand Saints their first-ever league defeat
- Credit: Ross Halls
Ipswich Town Women moved nine points clear at the top of the FAWNL Southern Premier Division table after a momentous 2-0 victory over Southampton at Snows Stadium on Sunday.
Natasha Thomas headed the Tractor Girls in front just before half-time, with Zoe Barratt netting a vital second on the hour-mark and in doing so, condemned the Saints to their first-ever league defeat since their formation in 2017.
Town started brightly but it was Southampton who carved out the first chance of the game as Lucia Kendall broke into the area and found Sarah Quantrill well behind her low effort.
The Blues continued to look a threat in wide areas and put a number of teasing crosses into the Saints' area but the home side withstood the barrage.
Barratt was the first to go close for Town as she met Paige Peake's inviting cross but glanced her free header just wide of the post.
The Tractor Girls continued to look the better of the two sides but Southampton still carried a threat on the counter-attack as full-back Ella Morris got forward and whipped a dangerous cross into the Town area but Quantrill dealt with the danger by towering over Ella Pusey and claiming the ball, to the delight of the Ipswich fans behind the goal.
Just two minutes later, Town took the lead and silenced the bumper home crowd inside Snows Stadium.
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Abbie Lafayette curled a pinpoint free-kick into the Southampton area and Thomas towered high over Alice Griffiths to bury her header beyond the stranded Kayla Rendell.
Southampton came out all guns blazing after the restart and went very close to levelling through veteran defender Shelly Provan but Quantrill got down well to push her header around the post.
Town continued to weather the storm and to the dismay of the Saints contingent, found a second goal against the run of play.
Lafayette once again delivered a perfect free-kick into the area which was helped on by substitute Maddie Biggs, and the ball fell perfectly for Barratt to slam home off the underside of the crossbar.
The Tractor Girls soon had the wind in their sails and took control of the game, with Paige Peake going close to adding a third with a deflected free-kick.
The Saints began to throw whatever they could at Town, with a succession of three corners coming into the Blues' area, but the Ipswich backline held firm.
Substitute Milly Mott carved out a great opportunity for the Saints but her dangerous cross was headed wide by Alisha Ware.
Northern Ireland international Laura Rafferty had Southampton's final chance but her header was routinely dealt with by Quantrill.
Town would not let their resolve be broken and held on to secure a massive victory in the title race.
The Tractor Girls return to action this Sunday at home to Crawley Wasps in the second-round of the Women's FA Cup.