Chelsea Flanagan’s 12th goal of the season secured a 1-0 win against West Ham United, and, with it, a place in the FA Women’s Premier League Plate Final.
The first half was a very even contest with not many chances being created by either side.
Flanagan was denied early on by West Ham’s goalkeeper Nikita Runnacles before PNE captain Laura Walker had to turn a dangerous cross behind for a corner with April Bowers lurking at the back post.
West Ham were consistently denying North End goal scoring opportunities which resulted in the home side trying their luck from far out but not hitting the target.
Aimee Cleaver came closest from long range in the 31st minute but her effort was a few yards past Runnacles’ post.
It was the Lilywhites who had the final chance of the first half after Flanagan played in Nikki Emery with a clever reverse pass.
Emery took one touch to set herself before firing her shot the wrong side of the post and into the side netting.
Yasmine Swarbrick was brought on to replace Sarah Chadwick in the 51st minute but it was one of the starting XI who had PNE’s next chance.
Alice Forshaw went on a mazy run down the left wing before unleashing a powerful shot from the edge of the area, only to see Runnacles pull off a fantastic one handed save to deny her.
Preston goalkeeper Danielle Brown was rarely tested all afternoon but found herself involved in the action midway through the second half.
West Ham’s top goalscorer Vicky Kinsman intercepted Alison Taberner’s back pass but Brown was there to clean up and clear the danger.
At the other end, Runnacles found herself in danger after charging out to clear the ball but she failed to pick out a teammate.
Forshaw picked off the clearance and tried her luck with her weaker foot from 35 yards but saw her shot fly narrowly over the bar and out for a goal kick.
As the second half progressed it looked ever more likely that the Lilywhites would score the opening goal of the game and Flanagan was next to test Runnacles in the 78th minute but saw the West Ham ‘keeper smother her shot down low to her left.
However, Runnacles couldn’t do anything to prevent Flanagan hitting the back of the net two minutes later.
Substitute Swarbrick nodded the ball on for Flanagan to latch onto and she brought it under control before firing past Runnacles via a slight deflection off Ruby Baxter to give PNE the lead.
The home side’s manager Luke Podmore made an alternation to the team’s shape in the 83rd minute as he introduced defender Kerry Nickson to the game for her first appearance in four months to add another body at the back.
The Hammers threw players forward for the last five minutes of the game in search of an equaliser but they couldn’t find a way past the PNE defence.
The final whistle resulted in jubilant scenes on the pitch and in the stands as PNE secured their place in the FA Women’s Premier League Plate Final in the inaugural year of the Plate competition.
They will face Huddersfield Town Ladies, who they beat 6-2 in the league in December, on the 26th April 2015 with the venue yet to be confirmed.