After a bye in the 1st qualifying round we started our Vitality Womens FA Cup campaign with a tough away day to the Isle of Wight to face Shanklin Ladies.
The squad are no strangers to travel but that small stretch of water provides a logistical, time and cost complication like no other game.
Thankfully we have an incredibly dedicated squad and were able to take over 19 players all knowing we could only name 18 and only use 3 subs. Also the added bonus that with no Reserve game we were able take 3 coaching staff to make everyone’s life easier!
Despite the torrential weather the day before, the Shanklin pitch was in immaculate condition.
The game started in a predictable pattern, we had a lot of the ball but Shanklin were very organised across the back and their midfield stifled any attempts for us to breakthrough.
It was actually Shanklin that would get the first chance. A long crossfield ball finding their winger who crossed towards the front post. The cross was dropped by Owen with it hitting the post/bar and bouncing across the goal. The proceeding goal-line clearance by Vernon was less than convincing but luckily under very little pressure in the middle we were able to get it away for a corner.
We’re struggling to settle into a pattern of play but eventually, with 15 minutes on the clock we won a corner. It was struck well but even in the very difficult wind the Shanklin GK showed her ability by taking it high in the air and easily holding.
Miles had a decent chance on 22 but her form from last week evaded her briefly as it sailed harmlessly over.
26 minutes in and we had what looked like a harmless free kick 45 yds out in the middle of the goal. Miles had other ideas, striking the ball superbly at the Shanklin goal only to be denied by a great save with the GK tipping it on to the bar.
It was proving to be a tough game for us, Shanklin defending well and their physical approach disrupted the game so we couldn’t build any momentum. That being said we weren’t at our best, while the defence of Vernon, Yeo and Eden were able to comfortably move the ball around the back we weren’t moving enough to create space to work with up front. Benjamin and Hughes were both working hard trying to create some link up to the midfield and attack but it was proving very difficult.
Shaw almost latched on to a good through ball on the 38th minute but their GK was out quickly and dived bravely at her feet to deny the opportunity.
Both sides had great chances in injury time to take a lead in, Shanklin were first 1 minute in when a mistake at the back allowed their striker a clean run through on goal. Fortunately for us her finish was far less threatening than the run and it bounced harmlessly wide of Owens far post.
4 minutes in to injury time and it was a rare defensive mistake by Shanklin as an attempted long clearance hit the back of another of their players and presented Shaw with a good chance. The GK made a great save at her near post, before Lewis’ follow up was well blocked by the defence.
0-0 HT while in general we were comfortable Shanklin had a couple of good chances and it appeared it was going to take something very special to beat the Shanklin GK. We knew we had increase our intensity and take a few more risks to create space.
We started the 2nd half much better, Miles had a good chance after 2 minutes. Benjamin put Asira through and she cut back for Miles to have a go on her left but it sailed over.
Our best chance came on the 49th minute, Asiras pace getting in behind the Shanklin defence only to find the GK too good again, as she made another fantastic save despite Asira doing everything right.
We were beginning to get a strong hold in the game with Eden and Asira attacking well down the left and our central players now getting a bit time on the ball in the middle.
Miles had another good effort saved on the 54th minute before we started to make some changes. Parson entered the game on the 57th minute replacing the ever-willing runner Brewer out on the right.
65 minutes in a Miles had two efforts well blocked in quick succession and it appeared that our pressure was beginning to tell.
It was to be substitute Parsons who would find that moment of magic to finally beat the Shanklin GK. Brilliantly played through by Eden on one of her regular adventures forward from left-back, Parsons found herself through and finished inch perfectly into the far corner. It was a great finish especially considering it was one of Parsons first touches inside their penalty area.
Asira made way for Roe on the 73rd minute as we tried to keep the pressure on to find a second. The game was becoming a bit more difficult for the referee as he had to quickly pull yellow cards for two tackles by Shanklin and then one for Vernon who reacted to being pushed by pushing their player back while the ref was looking at her.
Shanklin managed to win a couple of corners which Shaw defended well at the front post while Owen was hand to claw another effort at her near post away, after a good backheel flick by their midfielder.
80 minutes on the clock and we finally found our second. Miles putting in a good corner to the front post for Benjamin to arrive and flick in with her head at the near post.
Shaw had a good chance 3 minutes later as Parsons crossed to her in the middle of the box but her touch was a bit heavy and went to the GK.
Lewis made way for Tilly for our final sub with 5 minutes to go as we looked to calm the game down.
Miles had another chance with 2 to go after a good ball by Roe but was once again denied by the GK.
We kept the game in the Shanklin half the best we could for the last few minutes but the defence were resolute when called upon and we were able to see it through to keep back to back clean sheets.
FT – 0-2
?Rory went to Abbie Vernon, there were various nominations for her but the yellow card was the ultimate one. (She was a very grumpy lion!)
?Players player went to Jasmine Hughes who won on a tie breaker from Benjamin as the importance of our DMs was highlighted in the votes.
?Managers player went to Benjamin, who while shielding the defence brilliantly also added a great headed goal when it was desperately needed.