Saints march on in the Vitality Women's FA Cup


Southampton FC Women's wonder strikes courtesy of Georgie Freeland and Rachel Panting secured them a deserved place in the last sixteen of the Vitality Women's FA Cup.

Lewes had the first chance to take the lead during the game from the penalty spot, denied by a superb save by Kayla Rendell at the hands of Ini Umotong.

Then came the breakthrough in the 39th minute; Georgie Freeland receiving the ball on the edge of the box and picking out the top corner with a sumptuous strike.

The hosts dominated the second half as they looked to respond, which they eventually did through a 62nd minute Umotong header from close range, following a deep corner.

Saints’ second came in the 78th minute, Rachel Panting hitting a superb strike from long-range which found the top corner which is sure to take all of the goal of the season plaudits.

Saints were unchanged from their win over Yeovil United in the last round, meaning youngster Lucia Kendall kept her place alongside skipper Shannon Sievwright in the centre of midfield.

As many would have expected the hosts came out the blocks firing, testing Saints’ defence in the early moments as illustrated by their three corners in just over ten minutes.

But as the half wore on Saints grew into the fixture; Rachel Panting surging through midfield and looking for a through ball towards Sophia Phaorah which was eventually blocked.

The first fifteen minutes alone illustrated the competitive afternoon ahead for both sides, in what was to be an intriguing cup tie.

Another opportunity came for Lewes in the 23rd minute, and it was another from a set piece as Millie Rouse’s deep delivery just missed the head of forward Umotong.

Saints continued to respond with breaks of their own but failed to find that final ball and test the goalkeeper.

Lewes looked to punish Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side when they had position, Sophia O’Rourke letting fly from the edge of the box but unable to find the target in the 31st minute.

Then two minutes later came the moment of the game so far, Rosie Parnell bringing down Megan Mackey as Lewes were awarded a penalty.

Up stepped Umotong, whose spot kick was well saved by Kayla Rendell down to her right-hand side; typifying the dominant performance by the Saints keeper so far during the afternoon.

It seemed the penalty gave Saints the lift they needed, as they took the lead just five minutes later.

Parnell took a free kick which fell to Freeland, who slammed her effort into the top corner with her right foot with an unstoppable strike.

It meant that at the break a confident Saints side went in a goal to the good.

Lewes, as expected, came out fighting at the start of the second 45; Emma Jones hitting a strike from the right wing which Rendell did well to eventually claim.

It was Jones again who went close minutes later, curling an effort from that same flank just wide of the far post.

Next came another chance for Umotong, who connected to a deep cross at the back post but could only header over unmarked at the back post in the 55th minute.

But eventually the pressure did tell and it came from a corner.

The deep set-piece fell to the head of substitute Georgia Timms at the far post, who headed back into the box for it to be bundled home by Umotong from close range in the 62nd minute.

It was the first goal Saints had conceded in their 2020/21 FA Cup campaign, something which appeared to be on the cards since the interval.

The 65th minute saw a welcome return to the side for youngster Ella Morris; Saints’ player of the 2019/20 season who had suffered an ACL injury and had spent a year on the recovery trail.

As the second half grew older Lewes continued to enjoy the lion’s share of possession, but Saints continued to stand strong.

A moment of panic came for Rendell when a deep cross via Lucy Ashworth-Clifford clipped the bar with twenty minutes to go.

Then came a rare glimpse of goal for Saints via Rachel Panting, whose long-range strike hit the back of teammate Sophia Pharoah.

What came next was even better as far as Saints were concerned.

Parnell’s long-range ball up field fell to the feet of Panting, who from well over 30-yards out hit a strike first time into the top corner, sparking wild celebrations from the outfield players and the bench alike.

As the game entered the final five minutes it was certainly all or nothing as far as Lewes were concerned; Ashworth-Clifford firing from range which was eventually a comfortable claim for Rendell.

Saints defended with bravery and determination, just as they had done all season during their FA Cup run.

It was this which saw them through to a historic victory, setting up a tie with Super League side Birmingham City in the last 16.