Charlton Athletic crowned what must surely have been their most magnificent campaign since their heyday with an 11-1 victory over Plymouth Argyle.
The triple cup-winners, who ended the Premier League season in third place, signed off much as they had begun it – with a double-figures victory.
Gemma Shepherd, who bagged one of three hat-tricks in that 12-1 opening-day win over Keynsham Town, marked the season finale with a double hat-trick as free-scoring Charlton exploited their opponents’ lack of resources to end the campaign with 88 league goals from their 22 games.
In fact, in an incredible nine months, in which they won the Ryman, Capital and Premier League Cups, Charlton banged in an astonishing 151 goals in a total of 41 matches – an average of almost 3.7 per outing.
Their hat-trick of trophies is a fitting reward for their attacking prowess – although it seems scarcely credible that they still could not finish in the top two of an extremely competitive Southern Division of the Premier League.
Their 34 goals conceded – bettered by four other sides – go some way to explaining it, although their four league defeats ultimately cost them a chance of the title.
Plymouth made today’s daunting 500-mile round-trip with just 11 players – not all of whom were fit – and deserve credit for still fulfilling the fixture.
Ultimately we were picked apart by the best side in the league today with a bare 11 of which 4 were already carrying injuries.
— Plymouth Argyle LFC (@ArgyleLFC) May 17, 2015
But on the pitch they joined the growing list of clubs given a footballing lesson by a side high on energy and commitment in their 41st competitive match of the season – and their 13th in the past seven weeks.
All the more remarkable is that they changed managers midway through the campaign – assistant, Jeremy Parsons, stepping in when Stuart Weston stood down – surely the most seamless managerial transition in football history.
Today’s victory was their 31st of the season – not counting penalty-shootout triumphs in the FAW Cup and most notably, in the final of the League Cup against Sheffield, the Premier League’s Northern Division champions.
Full credit to the @ArgyleLFC ladies today. Committed til the end in difficult circumstances and tried to play football. Safe journey home.
— Gemma Shepherd (@GemSheps10) May 17, 2015
Charlton were 3-1 up by the break, with Shepherd having scored twice and Kit Graham – the club’s top scorer – the other. Emily Mousley had pulled one back for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.
But the floodgates opened in the second half, with Plymouth having no fresh legs to bring on from the bench.
Shepherd helped herself to another four, making it 26 for the season, and Graham got her second to take her own total to an astonishing 54.
There were also goals for Sam Pittuck, Charley Clifford and Charlie Spice – her first for the seniors.
The 17-year-old came off the bench for the third time in recent weeks after earning a call-up to the first team following an excellent season with the club’s young development side – even leap-frogging the reserves – who happened to win their league, too.