MIDFIELDER Leeta Rutherford shares pride at Saints side who “rose to the challenge” to earn promotion after beating Wolves 1-0 in the Championship play-off final.

“It’s what we’ve dreamt of,” Rutherford told the Daily Echo moments after hoisting the promotion trophy. “It’s what we wanted from the start of the season. We had our ambitions and our plans and we worked hard all season. 

“It hasn’t been an easy ride, we’ve had quite a few tough games throughout the season. But we’ve got a young group of girls and they rose to the challenge. I’m so proud of all of them.”

The play-off final pitted the winners of the two National League divisions, North and South with only Saturday’s victors earning promotion to the Championship.

“It’s unfair and it comes to this final game - and it’s brutal,” Rutherford continued. “But what can you do? You’ve got to play who’s in front of you. Take our hat off to Wolves, they went to the end even though they had ten players, they kept coming at us. We did make it hard the second half, I’m not going to lie.”

Sophia Pharoah’s smartly taken first-half goal proved the difference as Saints held on through a cagey final half an hour despite Kelly Darby’s sending off on the stroke of half-time. The full-time whistle confirmed back-to-back promotions for Marieanne Spacey Cale’s side.

And they have no plans on stopping there.

“We’re an ambitious team, young, and we’ll always strive for more,” Rutherford added. “With a few experienced players in the team we’ll drag them through and give them the knowledge and experience they need. It’s a big step but we’re more than capable.”