Lucia Kendall’s stunning strike earned Southampton FC Women progression into the second round of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup, defeating visitors Swindon Town 1-0.
Southampton created countless chances throughout the game, but only rustled the net once, the inform Kendall cutting inside and curling a delightful, left-footed effort from range into Emily McGrogan’s top right corner on 24 minutes.
Both teams observed a minute’s silence before kick-off, paying respect to those who have lost their lives in the line of duty, as captain’s Shannon Sievwright and Rianne Bourne-Hallett laid down Remembrance Day wreaths.
Head Coach Marieanne Spacey-Cale admitted Swindon would be a “very tough game” this week, but Southampton, who are high on confidence after defeating division rivals Ipswich Town in the National League Cup last Sunday, started with an intensity their visitors simply couldn’t rival.
The first chance would come the way of Katie Rood, the New Zealand international finding a pocket of space and firing left-footed from distance, but she could only direct the effort down the throat of a well-positioned McGrogan. Early warning signs, nonetheless.
Predictably, it wouldn’t be too long before the hosts went one better, Lucia Kendall once again finding space on the right wing, before cutting inside and curling a delicious left-footed effort from considerable distance that would dip and bend inside McGrogan’s top right corner, kissing the crossbar on its way home in the 24th minute. Another brilliant goal from a player in rich form.
Spurred on by her first, the 17-year-old would quickly be involved again, Ciara Watling bending in a cross from the left which Kendall would flick toward the far post, only to be agonisingly denied by the woodwork. Surely at this point it was just a matter of time before the advantage was doubled, with Saints launching wave upon wave of attacks.
With around five minutes remaining before the halftime interval, architect Watling would carve another chance, a quick pass into the feet of Rood allowed the attacker to turn her marker and fire a left-footed effort toward the bottom corner of Swindon’s net from just inside the area, which the diving McGrogan did well to turn wide.
Going into the break, Southampton would be satisfied with their first half performance, but perhaps slightly disappointed that their lead wasn’t two or three. Emerging for the second period, it was evident that the plan was to kill the game quickly and ruthlessly.
The dangerous trio of Rood, Kendall and Watling would instantly begin to pressure the away net again, Rood cutting back her pass into the feet of Kendall, who, from close proximity, saw her powerful shot palmed into the air by an outstretched McGrogan. Watling did well to win the resulting header, turning the ball toward the now unoccupied net, but a swarm of recovering Swindon defenders managed to hook the attempt clear seconds before it crossed the line.
With the game still somehow 1-0, Ella Morris would be the next to threaten the Swindon defence in search of a second, using her pace to make good progress down the right wing before eventually firing a low cross into the arriving Rood, who will be bitterly disappointed to have swept her effort over in the 64th minute.
Now in its final stages, Swindon began to push more players forward in a hope to level the game, despite registering no shots on Sara Luce’s goal thus far. However, in doing so Morris began to enjoy a wealth of space down the right and almost used it to good effect with 10 minutes to spare, pirouetting her marker and firing a low effort goal ward, but star performer McGrogan was there once again to block the attempt.
Quite surprisingly given the performance, it would be Kendall’s solitary first half strike that won Southampton the match, but it was no less than Spacey-Cale’s side deserved, showing tremendous maturity and spirit to see out the encounter with another clean sheet, and ensure progression into the second round of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup.