Southampton FC Women brushed aside Ilminster Town 7-0 to progress into the third round of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup.
After a blistering start, Saints found the net twice in the first period, Sophia Pharoah tapping home in the 33rd minute following intelligent play by Ella Morris to create the shooting opportunity, before defender Leeta Rutherford doubled the advantage with a diving header moments before halftime.
If Marieanne Spacey-Cale was pleased with her sides first-half display, she will have been thrilled with that of the second, as further goals from Georgie Freeland, Rutherford, Morris and a debut strike from RTC-graduate Sky Bedwell secured a resounding 7-0 victory for Southampton at the Archie Gooch Pavilion.
Southampton commanded possession in the early stages, finding particular joy down the left through Charley Evans, who constantly used her pace to blitz past fullback Georgia Coward at every opportunity.
Georgie Freeland would enjoy the first real goalscoring opportunity of the afternoon after three minutes, following in on Alisha Ware’s whipped cross from the left which was spilt by the goalkeeper after a slight deflection on its way through, as the striker quickly pounced on the loose ball but couldn’t direct her effort goalward.
Moments later and Charlotte Johnson’s gloves were dirtied again, Pharoah meeting Milly Mott’s cross from the right sweetly on the half volley from just outside the area, but her effort lacked the necessary power to pose any real concern to the opposition goal.
Evidently, Ilminster’s game plan largely consisted of putting Southampton under pressure high up the pitch, those in blue sprinting up-field on any occasion the visitors were in defensive possession. However, Saints were too sharp in their intricate passing play to fall victim to such a tactic, constantly evading opposition challenges before attacking in the acres of space consequently left vacant.
By the 33rd minute, Johnson had been called upon several more times, denying the likes of Rutherford and Freeland once more, but her resolve would eventually be broken, Evans’s whipped cross guided perfectly beyond the Ilminster backline, allowing the alert Morris to toe past the outrushing goalkeeper before Pharoah calmly side-footed into the open net. A deserved lead given Southampton’s explosive start.
Five minutes later and the reds looked to add a second, Ware the beneficiary of a fine through ball from midfielder and captain Phoebe Williams, but the winger saw her shot saved well by Johnson, who was enjoying an impressive afternoon thus far.
Southampton looked comfortable and content to see out the remaining few minutes of the first-half with their two goal lead, but were given a sharp wake-up call after goalkeeper Sara Luce spilled an in-swinging freekick, presenting Charlie Pettinger with a golden opportunity to level proceedings, but the defender swiped wildly at the loose ball, making no real contact and giving Saints the opportunity to clear.
The half would end on a more positive note however, Southampton attacking once more down the left before delivering a sumptuous ball toward the far post of Johnson’s net, the backtracking goalkeeper did well to claw the effort out, but could only guide the ball into the path of Rutherford, who finished spectacularly with a diving header at the far post moments before the referee’s whistle.
Coming into the second period, Southampton looked to build on their strong first-half performance, but quickly found themselves on the receiving end of a Jodi Cornwall freekick in the 49th minute, which cut across the grass before slamming against the foot of Luce’s left post, to the harmonious despair of Ilminster’s supporters.
However, much alike their second goal, Saints would quickly turn a negative into a positive, Ware showing good strength to hold off two defenders and reach the byline, right of goal, before cutting back a low cross into the feet of an arriving Freeland, who couldn’t miss from a couple of yards out in the 50th minute.
Now firmly in their rhythm, Saints began launching countless attacks, Morris the next to come close with her shot from a tight, right-sided angle which Johnson turned behind. Rutherford would then go on to hit the crossbar with a delicate, calculated chip from the resulting corner.
Two noticeable additions to Spacey-Cale’s squad were that of Megan Collett and Sky Bedwell, further graduates of Southampton illustrious Regional Talent Club, and it didn’t take long for Bedwell to justify her inclusion, producing a spectacular effort over the head of Johnson and into her far corner from considerable distance on the left-wing in the 54th minute, warranting tremendous praise from the home bench where she had sat until replacing Pharoah in the 45th minute.
Eleven minutes after adding her name to the scoresheet, Bedwell then added an assist, finding Morris at the far post with a pinpoint cross from the left that allowed the fullback to head back across goal and low into the bottom corner. An inspiring performance from the youngster and one which undoubtedly filled her fellow debutant Collett with confidence as she entered the frame in the 75th minute, replacing goal-scorer Morris.
By this point, Ilminster looked exhausted, and it seemed only a matter of time before Southampton found number six.
That would quickly be the case, Mott driving forward and curling a delicious through ball into the feet of Freeland, who took the pass wonderfully before bearing in on goal and finishing prolifically into the left corner in the 78th minute.
Following her seamless integration into proceedings, Collett would soon have her first opportunity to score, but the number-23 couldn’t pull the trigger before a brave Johnson smothered the danger at her feet in the 88th minute.
Although, one-minute later the net would rustle for the seventh and final time, Williams bursting through the middle and threading into the path of Rutherford, who, from a right-wing position, showed poise to finish clinically into the far corner with a driven right-footed attempt.
Following the disappointment of last weekend’s loss against Ipswich Town in the league, Southampton showed strength, courage and determination to out-class their opponents today, ensuring progression into the third round of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup.