Katie Rood’s late winner ensured Southampton FC Women’s semi-final place in the National League Cup, overcoming visitors Hashtag United 1-0 at Snows Stadium.
The first 45 was tightly contested, both sides creating chances, but neither able to find the opening goal.
The second half seemed to be following a similar trend up until the 88th minute, when Katie Rood’s thunderous strike gave Saints a late lead and ultimately ensured National League Cup progression.
Southampton were almost gifted a goal in the opening moments, Hashtag goalkeeper Imogen Riches struggling under pressure from Ella Pusey, eventually hacking the ball out to Shannon Sievwright whose blast from distance was blocked.
Continuing to tighten their grip on the game, Saints enjoyed a golden opportunity in the 13th minute, Ciara Watling trying to poke home from close range amid a sea of defensive bodies for Hashtag, who collectively managed to steer the ball to safety after miscommunication from a corner.
Continuing to soak up home pressure well, the visitors then carved a chance of their own three minutes later, Malika Apindia meeting a cross from the left with her head, but not with enough accuracy to beat Kayla Rendell.
Despite the engrossing start, the match quickly reduced to a simmer as both sides became accustomed to the damp pitch. Alisha Ware would be the next to lift fans from their seats just after the half hour mark, her left-footed effort from 30-yards clipping the top of the crossbar.
With opportunities for both teams coming and going in the minutes between 30 and 45, the opportunity to refresh and rethink was something Saints benefited from at half-time, as Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side emerged with intent for the second.
Instantly playing with more aggression, Saints were millimetres away from finding the opener in the 49th minute, Pusey just failing to touch home Milly Mott’s whipped cross from the right flank.
With Southampton enjoying the majority of possession, Hashtag were forced to try their luck from range, and almost found some joy through the strike of Gemma Abela, which whistled just wide of Rendell’s left post.
With the crucial first goal still proving illusive, Spacey-Cale looked to her bench for inspiration, as Rood and Leeta Rutherford replaced Sievwright and Watling on 76 minutes.
In a rich vein of form, Rood looked to make a quick impact, her curling effort from the right of Riches’ box proving troublesome, but not terminal, the goalkeeper claiming at the second attempt.
As extra-time neared, Hashtag sustained their resolve, frustrating Southampton as they continued their search for a late winner. However, despite their valiant attempts, Saints, as they have done on so many occasions this season, would eventually prevail.
Just as the game appeared to be slowing in advance of extra-time, a long ball over the top was misjudged by backtracking defender Grace Gillard, allowing the ever-dangerous Rood to burst through before powering her right-footed effort off the underside of Riches’ crossbar and in at her near post. Jubilation.
On a day that perhaps wasn’t their best, Southampton showed determination and character to find a way through, earning their place in the National League Cup semi-final.