COVENTRY United Ladies manager Jay Bradford believes football wanted the Red and Greens to stay up after Mollie Green’s 97th minute free-kick kept the club in the Women’s Championship at the expense of opponents Watford.
United completed the greatest of great escapes in spectacular fashion as Green’s thunderous 30-yard free-kick found the top left corner to stun the home crowd at Vicarage Road.
Coventry knew only a win would keep them up and Green’s goal capped a stunning end to the season that saw Bradford’s side overcome a 10-point deduction for entering voluntary liquidation just before Christmas.
That left the club on minus four points, 10 points adrift of Watford with 11 matches to play, only for an eight-game unbeaten run to culminate in a 1-0 win against their relegation rivals on the final day of the season.
Bradford told BBC CWR: “Everybody was behind us, football wanted us to do it, the whole football community wanted us to win.
“When you’ve got people like Mollie Green who can do what she does – wow! When it hits the back of the net, I was trying to calm the bench and get the staff off the pitch because we didn’t need any more added time.
“When the final whistle goes, people were crying, people were running on the pitch because it means so much, this journey has been a roller coaster and hopefully we’ll never have to live through it again.
“It takes its toll mentally and physically, we have limped through games as staff and players, the staff are still not unaffected by what happened at Christmas, full credit to everybody that wears a Coventry United badge because they’re the reason that we’re here.
“I need to sit down, I am emotional, I’ll go and have my moment and definitely go and have a beer – maybe more than one! I’m just so proud of them not just as players but as people.
“They deserve that moment of elation when the ball hits the back of the net, we deserve it, I’m elated but I probably need to go and cry somewhere.”
Bradford added: “The group showed its class and quality, we should never have been in this position, we should never have come into the final day with any hope.
“To win it in the fashion that we did, it shows everything about us, we never know when we’re beaten, we were outstanding and we were calm and composed when we needed to be.
“Pressure is a privilege, to be at this level it is a privilege, it’s not just one goal that has put is in this position, it’s a million moments that have culminated in us still being in the league.”
Green’s goal sparked wild scenes of jubilation on the pitch and chairman Lewis Taylor, who saved the club from liquidation in January, admitted celebrations continued off the pitch following their survival showdown win.
Taylor told Sky Sports: “I know the players all went out partying – there were a few drinks had for sure!
“It’s really exciting from here, everything you’ve seen in the last half-season has been running repairs on a structure that was in place from the previous ownership.
“The end goal for us is WSL, that’s where we want to be, it’s going to take a few years to get there, now we can really start to build for the future and build the correct structure to support real success.”
The Red and Greens were on top for much of the game with Natalie Haigh’s header cleared off the line in the first half before Green sent a powerful free-kick narrowly wide of the post.
Coventry almost snatched the points in injury time when substitute Grace Riglar headed against the base of the post from Olivia Fergusson’s cross.
However, it was left to Green to strike a stunning free-kick past a despairing Georgie Ferguson in the Watford goal to secure an extraordinary victory.
United finish the season in 11th place, one point above Watford, and can now look forward to another season in the second tier.