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Women

Smith relishing National League challenge

AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth Women last week discovered that they would be promoted to the National League and compete in step four of the football pyramid next season. 

The decision came after the regular season was declared null and void, with the Cherries having competed in just one league game across the 2020/21 campaign. 

Following the news, we take a closer look at all you need to know about the Women's promotion. 

How the promotion came about: 

With the last two seasons having been declared null and void, it meant there was no opportunity for teams to win promotion. 

When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, the Cherries were top of the Southern Region Women's Premier League and primed to go up, but with the fixtures not being able to finish, there was no movement in leagues at the end of the season. 

In 2020/21, the league barely got started. An exceptional FA Cup run, which saw the side reach the first round proper for just the second time in history, meant that just one league fixture was completed, that being an 11-0 away win at Oxford City. 

Following the decision to curtail the season in March, the FA announced that teams would be able to apply for 'upward movement', with results from the last two seasons and financial state of the club both taken into account. 

A successful application was announced last week, with the side the only team to be awarded promotion from their league. 

What to expect next season: 

Steve Cuss' side will now move into step four of the women's football pyramid, just two promotions away from the FA Championship. 

They'll face the likes of Swindon Town, Exeter City and Cheltenham Town, as their away days will now expand across the southern region. 

There will also be league fixtures against Southampton Women FC and Buckland Athletic, with the Cherries having beaten both in the FA Cup preliminary rounds last season. 

Additionally, the team will take part in the League Cup, which is made up of other sides in their league as well as the league above, meaning there's likely to be opportunities to face higher opposition and tougher tests. 

Vice-Captain Maisy Smith says: 

"I was absolutely buzzing as you can probably tell. We've had a couple of seasons where we've really been pushing, but haven't been able to go up. Now it's happened, I'm absolutely delighted as are all the girls. 

"It would've been devastating if our application hadn't been successful because we know it's what we deserve. We deserve to be in the National League and we deserve to be at that level. 

"I'm so motivated. It makes me want to just go down to the gym and work really hard, so that I'm ready for next season. 

"It's a completely different level of football. It's brilliant, there;s such a difference even in terms of the pitches we play on! Your facing some really good players and you don't get much time on the ball in that league! It's very touch-tight and quick football as I found out when I was playing for Poole in that league."

Steve Cuss says: 

"I'm really proud. It was a bit of a long wait over the last month following our application. We finally got the good news and I'm so pleased for the players. 

"They've worked so hard over the last two years in two stop-start seasons and to get this at the end of it is just a superb reward for their hard work and commitment. 

"We had that focus in that we wanted to get into the National League. It's been our target for such a long time. Initially, we had seven games to go and we felt like we were in a good position, but that season was never finished.  

"This season, the situation meant we had only played one league game because we had six matches in the FA Cup. I think the players felt like they deserved it and that they're ready for the National League." 

How to follow: 

As ever, we'll have all the latest updates on afcb.co.uk, but we've also launched an Instagram page for our Women's team. 

You can join their journey on @afcbwomen for all the news, updates and features. 

Thank you for your support

Bournemouth University for being our main girls and women's team sponsor, and iPRO and Vitality for supporting the womens' programme.

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