Southampton FC Women suffered an agonising penalty defeat to Portsmouth in the Hampshire FA Senior Cup final.
Portsmouth had captain Jade Bradley to thank for the opening goal of the game, curling a wide free kick in at the near post after just 11 minutes.
Saints had to battle for their equaliser, which eventually came via Rachel Panting in the 58th minute – the Saints forward coolly finding the bottom right corner.
Despite Saints being the dominant side in the final stages they couldn’t find the goal they needed, meaning the game was decided on penalties.
There were two changes to the Saints side which narrowly lost out to Super League side Birmingham on Sunday.
In came Ella Morris for her first competitive start since her long injury layoff, alongside Rachel Panting – one of three ex-Pompey players starting for Saints at Westleigh Park.
It didn’t take long at all for Saints to get into their stride, Lucia Kendall cutting in from the right flank and forcing Hannah Haughton into an early stop.
The second chance fell to the head of Panting, heading just over at the far post following Shannon Sievwright’s looping corner.
But despite the opening goal came Pompey’s way in the 11th minute; skipper Bradley stepping over a free kick to the right of the penalty area before curling her shot into the near post.
Ella Pusey looked to spark the Saints fightback almost immediately, looking to latch onto a through ball but having it nicked away at her feet by keeper Haughton.
The closest chance of the game so far for Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side came on 20 minutes, Ella Morris using her pace to burst down the wing and skip past an onrushing Haughton.
Then came the cross, which proved met the head of a Pusey but the Saints forward was hounded out by multiple Pompey defenders and unable to direct her header goalward.
Ella Morris again proved pivotal in the next Saints’ chance, producing a cross field ball for Panting who looked for the far post but her effort came inches wide.
Ex-Saint Shannon Albuery went the closest Pompey had gone since their opener in the 33rd minute, heading into the palms of Kayla Rendell following Bradley’s free kick.
Minutes later came a glorious chance for the hosts, Jade Widdows played through by an unfortunate back pass but Rendell equal to the one-on-one.
Panting was involved once more with five minutes to go before the break, bringing down a ball just outside the box and forcing Haughton to scramble down to her right post to claim.
It was cagey start to the second half from both teams, seemingly aware of the importance of the next goal.
Pusey had the first of Saints’ chances, inches away from connecting to a through ball in similar fashion to the first half but seeing it nicked away by Haughton.
Then the ball fell to Panting, who made no mistake in the 57th minute finding the bottom corner with emphatic fashion.
Saints then began to turn the screw, Kendall next to take aim at Haughton with a cleverly chipped finish which was well held.
Pompey were not sitting down however, fighting back in true derby fashion and forcing Caitlin Morris to kick the ball away for a corner in front of Rendell following a low cross.
Substitute Georgie Freeland gave Saints extra width going forward, which stretched Pompey’s backline in a way they hadn’t done before.
In the 72nd minute came a plethora of chances for Saints as they really looked to take the game by the neck.
A deep cross fell to Phoebe Williams on the edge of the box, whose deflected effort found the feet of Pusey, denied only by a point-blank save inside a crowded penalty area.
Freeland was next to have an effort, finishing off a smart move with a drilled effort which just missed the near post in the 77th minute.
As the game entered the final ten minutes Saints controlled the tempo, keeping Pompey penned back but unable to find that final ball.
With five minutes of stoppage time announced the Saints onslaught continued, with their south coast rivals continuing to hold strong.
The final chance for Spacey-Cale’s side came in the final seconds of normal time, a deep cross finding the head of Williams whose header was well claimed.
Eventually there was no breakthrough and the game went to a penalty shootout.
First up was Pompey’s Katie James who fired past Rendell, before Rosie Parnell levelled with a superb spot-kick off the bar.
Next came substitute Mia Adaway who made no mistake, whilst Saints’ Sievwright saw her penalty well saved by Haughton.
Freya Jones’ miss gave Saints hope but Haughton was there again to match Freeland’s effort as Pompey remained ahead.
The lead was extended by Danielle Rowe before Pusey pulled a goal back with her spot-kick.
Pompey had the chance to win it with Ava Rowbotham, but their victory was eventually secured through Rendell’s unfortunate miss against the bar.