A SUPERB Sophia Pharoah opener sealed Championship promotion as Saints dispatched 10-woman Wolves 1-0 in the National League play-off final at Stockport.

The forward scored her 26th of the season in the first-half as Wolves’ Kelly Darby saw red right before the interval to send her side down to 10.

Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s charges' promotion comes in their first season in the third division, and coming the hard way with only one team of the two National Leagues going up.

Saints had defeated bitter rivals Pompey at St Mary’s almost exactly a month ago to secure the Southern title, and had not played in 20 days – a 4-1 win over Cardiff – leading up to the final.

Wolves won their Northern division by eight points, while Saints eventually swept aside competition from Oxford and Ipswich to extend a nine point gap - also winning the National League cup and seeking a national double.

Wolves manager, Dan McNamara, was not present for the match in remarkable fashion – instead away undertaking an RAF mission at an undisclosed location.

It looked like they could have done with some calm and guidance from their boss, with Saints asserting full control in the first-half.

Saints should have opened through Lucia Kendall’s chip, after Sophia Pharoah played through, but it was saved, feeling they should have had a penalty after a coming together in the area with Pharoah on the ball soon after.

But the goal did come inside 23 minutes from Georgie Freeland’s lofted pass to Pharoah, taken down in the area with excellent footwork and prodded beyond the onrushing keeper to open the scoring.

Wolves then began to let their frustration show, Kelly Darby booked for leaving studs on a grounded Kendall in one incident.

And right before half-time, the same player let her team down and left studs again on a Saints player right in front of the officials. The same recourse followed, and she made way for an early bath.

Saints’ control of the ball continued into the second-half but, aside from a darting run from substitute Ella Morris, it was Wolves who had more sights at goal – often gifted by some astray passing out the back.

But those sights were rarely more than speculative, and Spacey-Cale introduced Katie Rood as her second change, with 15 minutes to go and a ship needing to be steadied.

Late nerves and four minutes of added time were ridden with Wolves' Jade Cross blazing over a golden chance inside the area - and it should have been in.

But the travelling Saints side were let off the hook and sealed their historic achievement on the whistle of referee Laura Impey. 

Saints: Rendell; Mott, Parnell, Rafferty, Collett (Rood, 76); Griffiths, Rutherford, Kendall; Freeland (Morris, 62), Pharoah, Ware.

Unused subs: Watling, Pusey, Luce (g/k).

Booked: Parnell

Wolves; Turner; Cooper, Price, E Cross, Gauntlett, George, J Cross, Hughes, Darby, Morphet, Merrick.

Subs: Dicken, Miller, Walker, Elsmore, Burridge.

Sent off: Darby.

Referee: Laura Impey.