Ella Morris’s 91st minute strike secured FA Cup progression for Southampton, who overcome Bristol City 1-0 at St Mary’s Stadium.
Despite opportunities throughout the 90-minutes for both sides, the game was forced into extra time before Morris’s 91st minute strike secured FA Cup progression for
Southampton, who progress into the fifth round ahead of Championship opposition Bristol City.
After a blistering start, Southampton enjoyed the first chance of the afternoon in the third minute, Lucia Kendall breaking down the left and firing a low ball across the box into the feet of Sophia Pharoah, who couldn’t get her shot away before Satara Murray slid in to clear.
However, it didn’t take long for Bristol to grow into the game, the visitors carving their first opportunity after six minutes as Brooke Aspin rose above her marker to head against the crossbar following Aimee Palmer’s corner, the ball subsequently looping up into the air allowing Kayla Rendell to claim.
Considering their opposition are of Championship calibre, Marieanne Spacey-Cale will have been pleased with her side’s performance in the initial half-hour, Saints commanding possession and starving their opponents of clear-cut chances.
Bristol’s star striker Abi Harrison registered her first attempt in the 32nd minute, but, amid pressure from the alert Rosie Parnell, was restricted to an uncontrolled blast wide of Rendell’s left post, somewhat summing up her team’s performance thus far.
Following her exceptional performances of late, academy graduate Megan Collett was again included from the start for Saints, the 16-year-old proving her quality with a perfectly timed sliding challenge moments before halftime, denying Bristol’s Ffion Morgan who had broken into the box and was poised to shoot.
An opportunity to regroup and reenergise, Southampton emerged for the second-half motivated by their prior display, while Bristol appeared frustrated to be held on level terms.
That being said, it would be Bristol who threatened first, Gwen Davies making good progress down the left-flank before firing her low effort across Rendell and onto her left post, the woodwork proving Southampton’s saviour for the second occasion.
Finding their rhythm, the visitors quickly attacked again, Melissa Johnson driving through the heart of Southampton’s defence with the ball and facing up to Rendell, who, as she has so many times already this season, was equal to the attempt and smothered the danger.
With both teams tiring, the game became a scrappier contest as the minutes ticked beyond 70, extra time looking the most likely of outcomes.
Lucia Kendall would almost swing the odds in Saints’ favour, the youngster showing great determination to close down Fran Bentley’s clearance, before attempting an audacious overhead kick from the resulting loose ball, which arched over the retreating goalkeepers head and landed narrowly wide of her right post on 78 minutes.
Driven on by the tremendous support of a 3,638 strong crowd at St Mary’s, Saints didn’t give up on the prospect of an opener, Kendall again going close in similar circumstances to her prior attempt, battling against Bentley for a loose ball which ultimately squirmed out for a throw-in.
A last throw of the dice for Bristol in the 90th minute, Aggie Beever-Jones looked set to win it as she broke away and guided her effort beyond the outrushing Rednell, but heroic substitute Milly Mott showed incredible determination to get back and steer off the line, ensuring there would be another 30-minutes of extra time to play.
And, to the backdrop of sheer jubilation, in the 91st minute came lift-off, Katie Rood getting up well to flick on Alisha Ware’s cross from the left, which consequently made it’s way into the path of the incoming Ella Morris, the full-back showing no hesitation in smashing beyond Bentley before wheeling away in celebration.
Before many could catch their breath, Saints quickly began their hunt for a second, Leeta Rutherford placed at the far post to guide goal scorer Morris’s cross goalward, but the ball agonisingly rebounded off the post, sparing Bristol.
Just when you thought the match couldn’t get any more dramatic, Beever-Jones was pulled down by Parnell in the box, cuing Aimee Keir’s whistle for a penalty kick in the 110th minute.
A defining moment in the match, up stepped Jesse Wooley, who proceeded to get underneath the dead ball and sky horribly beyond Rendell’s crossbar, all but sealing the win.
An unbelievable victory for Southampton FC Women and one which sees them progress into the fifth round of the FA Cup, levelling their incredible run last season.