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Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Coulthard bows out as season ends
Arsenal Ladies celebrate winning the Women's FA Cup
Arsenal's treble was the highlight of the season
BBC Sport Online women's football correspondent Tony Leighton rounds up the concluding action and reviews the Premier League season.

There were tears in South Wales but joy on the South coast as the outstanding promotion and relegation issues were wrapped up in the Women's Premier League.

A 2-1 defeat at Barry Town confirmed that Millwall Lionesses, one of the leading lights in the women's game for over two decades, will drop out of the top flight along with already relegated Liverpool.

The Lionesses will be replaced by Brighton, who - a fortnight after Leeds clinched promotion from the Northern Division - lifted the Southern Division title with a 5-1 win against Barking.

Emma Mead hit four of the goals as Brighton, who have lost only one League match this season, moved up to the National Division in emphatic style.

At the top end of the National Division there was an emotional afternoon at Doncaster Belles, where former England captain Gill Coulthard retired following a 1-0 victory over Charlton Athletic.

Gillian Coulthard in action for England
Coulthard: End of a prolific career
The stalwart defender, who made a record 119 England appearances, received presentations from the fans and club before shaking hands with practically everyone in the ground to mark her farewell appearance.

Sadly for Coulthard and the Belles, they had to settle for runners-up spot in the League at the end of a season which belonged almost exclusively to Arsenal.

The Gunners, who ended their season last week, won the League and both the FA and Premier League Cups to make it a tremendous treble.

Spearheaded by striker Angela Banks, who hit 42 League and Cup goals, the side fashioned by manager Vic Akers swept all before them in what has been a watershed season for the women's game.

In a campaign which saw the FA confirm their intention to start a professional women's League in 2003-04, most of the attention given to the game in the last 12 months has been focused on already professional Fulham.

Bankrolled by club owner Mohamed Al Fayed, the Cottagers jumped the FA gun by turning professional in the summer of 2000.

Full time training and coaching, not to mention the importing of some top playing talent, paid dividends through the winning of the South East Combination with a 100% record and a mountain of goals.

Karen Banks in action in the Women's FA Cup final
Karen Banks was in terrific goalscoring form
But they were unable to take the trophy they most coveted, the one they set their sights on from the day they became a professional club.

The FA Cup was their holy grail, and they duly reached the final without conceding a single goal.

But a single goal, inevitably by player of the season Angela Banks, was all it took for Arsenal to deny the professionals and seal their own treble triumph in front of the biggest ever crowd for a competitive women's football match in this country.

The Cup final attendance of 13,824 was not massive compared to crowds in the men's game, but it almost doubled the previous record figure and gave the women's game a welcome and timely boost.

With the game booming like never before at grass roots level, the England team reaching the European Championships finals for the first time in six years and professionalism round the corner, women's soccer might just be on the way to breaking into the national consciousness on a significant scale.

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See also:

13 May 01 |  Football
Liverpool ladies relegated
12 May 01 |  Scotland
Killie win cup on penalties
12 May 01 |  Football
Arsenal complete treble
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