Southampton FC Women will travel to Super League side Birmingham City in the fifth round of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup on Sunday, proving to be a historic day in the short history of the side.
Birmingham City vs Saints
Vitality Women’s FA Cup – fifth round
Sunday 16th May, 12.30pm BST
LIVE on Facebook and southamptonfc.com (see below for details)
After a monumental win over Championship side Lewes FC in the fourth round, Saints have been rewarded with a meeting with Super League side Birmingham City.
Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side faced and came through a new challenge in the previous round, undoubtedly motivated by Kayla Rendell’s 33rd minute penalty save.
Georgie Freeland scored the first of the two stunning strikes on the afternoon, picking out the top corner on 39 minutes with a half volley.
Lewes responded with a dominant second half, eventually grabbing an equaliser just past the hour mark through Ini Umotong.
But Saints didn’t let their heads drop, their defensive resilience continued and soon they were rewarded via Rachel Panting’s superb long-range strike with just over ten minutes to go.
Sunday’s opponents only entered the competition at the last round and enjoyed a dominant afternoon at home to Coventry United.
Two strikes each from Claudia Walker and Sarah Mayling, with Emily Murphy also getting in on the act before Coventry’s late consolation, ensured a comfortable progression for Carla Ward’s side.
Due to their league standing domestic action followed quickly after with the Blues losing twice and drawing twice since the win over Coventry.
PLAYER FOCUS: Shelly Provan
Few in the Saints squad have featured in the FA Cup more than defender Shelly Provan.
The club captain celebrates her birthday on Sunday as she looks to guide her side into the latter stages of the competition for the very first time.
“It’s about intensity for us,” she said. “Over the weeks we’ve had to defend with intensity, now we’ve got to make sure we keep possession with the same intensity we do when we’re defending.
“It’s crucial that we have more possession than we have done in previous games to allow us to go forward and to ultimately score goals. I think the intensity both defensively and in attack is going to be crucial for us this weekend.
“For me the Lewes game was probably one of the best experiences of my career because of the hard work that’s gone into us getting this far and proving that we can compete at that level.
“That’s where we want to be and to prove that in that game was great.
“I don’t remember the first time [playing in the FA Cup], but I remember a few experiences in particular. The furthest I’ve ever got was the semi-final when I played for Bristol.
“We played against Arsenal in the semi-final and were pipped to the post at that one! But it was an amazing experience just to get that far and that close to the final.”
HOW TO WATCH LIVE
Once again Southampton FC Women’s FA Cup ventures will be streamed LIVE thanks to club partners Virgin Media.
Tune in to the club’s official Facebook page or southamptonfc.com from 12.20 BST to watch the side take on Birmingham City at Damson Park.
Commentator Ian Wilding will take you through the action as Saints bid to make it into the quarter-finals of the competition for the very first time.
Spacey-Cale is another figure within the Saints set-up with a wealth of FA Cup experience, having won the trophy as a player.
But Sunday’s game poses a different kind of challenge to what she has faced before in the competition, one in which she and her side are relishing.
“It’s exciting,” said the manager with a smile. “We keep saying we want these challenges and want to see where we’re at and how we can challenge ourselves, how uncomfortable we’re prepared to be. I think this weekend will be a real sign of how uncomfortable we’re prepared to be.
“Playing Birmingham, the fifth round of the FA Cup and the history associated with that, we’re excited. We’ve had a really good run up until now and we’re looking forward to what Sunday brings.
“You look at everything out there at the moment, it’s all about the WSL and Championship teams. We’re quite happy with that because we’re the underdogs. This club loves being the underdog.
“We know Birmingham are going to be very, very good. They’re full time professionals who train day-in, day-out. They’ve just come to the end of a season and are safe. The shackles of the league season are off for them now.
“It will be our biggest, biggest test. They will want to show that they want to progress and we’ve got to be prepared for that. But also it’s the massive underdog tie. We’re still in this competition, we’re still competing.