Women's Report: Saints clear Cheltenham hurdle


Southampton FC Women march past Cheltenham Town 3-2 away from home, as Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side deservedly progress in the FA National League Cup.

It was the hosts who took the lead early, a dipping longshot from Abby Bevan in the 18th minute giving Southampton something to think about.

However, Saints showed determination to respond and did so through an accurate, placed effort from Lucia Kendall two minutes before halftime.

Emerging from the break inspired by their late equaliser, Georgie Freeland’s driven effort on 50 minutes swiftly put Saints in the driving seat.

Southampton went on to add their third in 75th minute, Sophia Pharoah volleying home from close range following a string of Cheltenham defensive errors.

The hosts did close the gap to one in the final minute, Mai Butler bundling home after Sara Luce’s miscalculated catch, but ultimately Southampton progression was never in doubt.

In-form Ella Pusey had an early opportunity to open the scoring for Saints, as she found Phoebe Williams’ cross at her feet from close range on three minutes, but Aimee Watson was quick to smother the ball before the striker could pull the trigger.

However, despite early Southampton pressure, it was Cheltenham who struck first, Bevan working the ball onto her right foot from 25-yards before firing a swerving, dipping effort into the roof of the net that left an advanced Luce defenceless on 18 minutes.

Eager to respond, Southampton began to step on the gas and came close after Freeland arrived to meet Ella Morris’ whipped cross from the left after 33 minutes, but the ball bobbled agonisingly wide of the left post – perfectly summing up Saints’ luck thus far.

However, Southampton continued to show brilliant resilience and found a deserved equaliser through Kendall in the 43rd minute, as the attacker swept her accurate effort into the bottom left corner of Watson’s net, following a low ball in from architect Williams.

Halftime probably came at a fortunate time for the hosts, who had been under the cosh since going ahead and finally cracked moments before the interval, but Southampton came into the second period with a hunger for more.

It took just five minutes for Spacey-Cale’s side to find their way ahead, Freeland firing a driven shot from the right corner of the box into the bottom left corner of the Cheltenham net that ultimately proved too precise and too powerful for the diving Watson, who got a hand to the effort but couldn’t keep it out.

Shortly after, the number seven came close again, rising highest to meet E. Morris’ whipped cross, but her glanced header flew narrowly wide.

Saints had some noticeable absentees going into the match, both Laura Rafferty and Ciara Watling called up to represent Northern Ireland at international level this week, but that didn’t bare too much impact on the game, which Saints largely dominated.

Southampton’s third and final goal came courtesy of Pharoah’s blasted effort from close range on 75 minutes, the substitute found herself perfectly positioned to volley home after a defensive miscommunication in the Cheltenham ranks forced a poor clearance straight into the midfielders path.

Moments later and there was almost a fourth, Pusey firing onto the post following a delicate ball from Freeland.

Saints showed good composure in the final stages to see out the game, but unfortunately found their lead decreased to one in the last minute, a lofted ball into the box directly from a free kick was misjudged by Luce and consequently bundled home by the waiting Butler. Ultimately though, Southampton would leave Corinium Stadium deservedly victorious.

Southampton’s next game sees them resume league action, as they face London Bees at the Snows Stadium on the 26th September following a short international break. Kick-off at 2pm.