Saints seal fourth round berth

By SFC Media Sun 05 Jan Cardiff City vs Saints
Photo by Isabelle Field

Southampton FC Women earned progression to the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Cardiff City Ladies in Wales.

Saints were forced to come from a goal down, and netted either side of the interval, to record their best ever FA Cup showing, having exited the competition at this stage last season.

Ella Pusey was on target first half, before Kirsty Whitton struck the winner early in the second period, securing a place in the hat for Monday's fourth round draw - the point where WSL and Championship sides enter the mix.

Saints started the brighter, and in truth, dominated the majority of the 90 minutes, with early chances falling the way of Sophia Pharaoh and Pusey.

Both tested goalkeeper Laura O'Sullivan, though she got a strong hand to thwart. Cardiff's first wave of attack followed, and against the run of play, constituted the game's opening goal.

Kylie Nolan escaped down the right and fizzed a ball centrally towards Jasmine Turner, who applied the finishing touch from three yards out.

Saints went immediately up the other end, searching for quick reply, and nearly found it when Pusey's header was turned off the line from a Phoebe Williams corner.

The striker, needing little encouragement to shoot, made no mistake in the 17th minute. Ella Morris, as often is the case, was the orchestrator, beginning a superb solo run inside her own half before beating two players and squaring to an unmarked Pusey.

The first-time finish was tidy, reversing the direction of the ball to fool O'Sullivan and find the far corner. Parity restored and barely a quarter of the tie played.

Rachel Panting forced yet another smart save from the busy Cardiff stopper in the 21st minute, one which favoured the goalkeeper, at her near post.

O'Sullivan was certainly the more active of the two keepers, and was called upon again shortly before half-time, this time denying Charley Evans from distance.

Nolan had a half chance for the hosts shortly before, dragging her shot wide after Cori Williams had hooked the ball over the top of the Saints defence.

The first period came to a close with the visitors dominating, and the second half began in much the same way.

Caitlin Morris rose highest to Shannon Sievwright's corner in the opening exchanges, heading narrowly wide, before Williams's corner from the opposite side was attacked by a host of bodies, before falling at the feet of Whitton.

The shot on the half volley wasn't the cleanest, but nestled nicely in the far right corner in the 48th minute, giving Saints the advantage for the first time in the tie.

Both sides, full of energy after the break, were pressing. Pusey was denied by the face of O'Sullivan, having been put through by Panting, while Cardiff's Kelly Isaac was then to be refused by Kayla Rendell, tipping her free-kick narrowly over the bar.

Williams's header went close from the resulting corner, but finished the wrong side of the post.

The second period was proving just as exciting as the first, rich in chances, and fraught with quality passages of play. Pusey was the liveliest threat for Marieanne Spacey-Cale's side, playing on the shoulder of Cardiff's backline, and timing most, although not all, runs in behind to perfection.

Her effort was again rebuffed on the hour mark, having giving the Cardiff defence the slip for the umpteenth time, but not managing to beat O'Sullivan, who took two attempts to gather the ball.

A frantic ending to the game included a brief scare; a goalmouth scramble, which Saints survived, throwing bodies on the line and allowing Rendell to pounce on the lose ball.
The visitors closed the game out smartly, working the channels and slowing play down, ensuring they retained possession in the Cardiff half.
Today's win marks the second time Saints have seen off higher opposition this season, beating Yeovil Town Ladies in the previous round, and they now eagerly await their fourth-round opposition, which will be revealed in tomorrow's draw.


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