Southampton secured passage into the fifth round of the Women’s FA Cup with a win over Bristol City. This provides Saints with the opportunity to emulate their run of last season which saw them narrowly depart the competition after a hard-fought fifth round tie against Birmingham City of the Women’s Super League.
As I approached the ground about forty minutes before kick-off there was already plenty of fans gathering outside of the stadium and slowly making their way in. Once inside I was able to meet the awesome Vixencast presenters, Shahan Miah and DM Withers. I’ve been a long time listener of their show so it was great to finally meet them. While there was no segregation of fans the supporters club had successfully mobilised fans to gather in the same area which added to the atmosphere.
It was a beautiful but slightly chilly day on the south coast and both sides were bathed in sunshine as they warmed up.
Saints’ top scorer Ella Pusey began the match on the bench with Sophia Pharoah starting up front after her hat trick in mid-week against Chichester & Selsey. While Phoebe Williams captained the side as Shannon Sievwright also began on the bench.
The visitors came into the match on the back of two defeats against Charlton Athletic and Man City in the Women’s Championship and Conti Cup respectively but were slight favourites due to their higher league status.
It was Saints who began the match on the front foot from kick-off, Pharoah nearly being played in a few times only for last-ditch tackles from Satara Murray – the Jamaican centre back impressed me all day.
Bristol City started to compose themselves and find their way into the match. Brooke Aspin headed onto the bar but Saints keeper Kayla Rendell was able to leap and claim the rebound.
For large spells in the first half both sides were positive and hunting for the opening goal but both were also organised and composed in defence so neither was able to get that killer shot away.
As the half went on I felt that Bristol looked the more dangerous. Mel Johnson and Abi Harrison both looking to spark the match into life but the Robins’ shooting wasn’t up to the standard they’d expect and Rendell was able to easily deal with everything that came her way.
Going into half time things were finely poised but Marieanne Spacey-Cale would have been the happier of the two bosses as her side did not look out of their depth against the team from the division above.
Moments into the second half Bristol went on the attack, Gwen Davies picked the ball up centrally on the edge of the box, controlling the ball with her right foot and taking a quick shot with her left foot across the goal. It beat Rendell but cannoned off the post.
Soon after Johnson picked up the ball and ran the length of the pitch, evading Saints centre-backs Caitlin Morris and Rosie Parnell, but she was unable to find the finish passed Rendell who came out and made the save.
Just after the hour mark, Murray’s pass to Bristol City keeper, Fran Bentley, fell short and half time substitute Katie Rood raced in and charged down Bentley’s clearance. To Bristol’s relief the ball cannoned off the New Zealand international to go out for a goal kick.
Bentley was spending much of the match as a sweeper-keeper charging out to deal with Southampton’s through balls which were overhit and asking a bit much of Rood and Pharoh. On the whole, she did that very well but in the sixty-eighth minute her clearance hit her own defender and travelled up into the air, knowing that she was already outside of her box she raced back to cover her goal. As the ball dropped Lucia Kendell attempted an overhead volley, Bentley had no chance but sadly for Saints it went just wide.
It wasn’t until the eighty-ninth minute that anything else of note occurred. A quickly taken free-kick on the halfway line found Aggie Beever-Jones who guided the ball passed the onrushing Rendell and it looked like it was going to win the match for Saints but Milly Mott was able to clear off the line. On watching the replay I would suggest that play should have been brought back for a penalty after Rendell took out Beever-Jones off the ball.
Two minutes later, in the first minute of extra-time, it was Saints who were able to make the breakthrough. Alisha Ware’s cross was flicked on to an unmarked Ella Morris who his a side-foot volley into the back of the net. At this point Saints looked the most likely to score.
Into the second half of extra time and Bristol were handed a lifeline when they were awarded a penalty with ten minutes left to play. The referee adjudged that Parnell had pushed Beever-Jones. The Bristol player dusted herself off to take the penalty but her effort was struck well over the bar.
Saints were able to see out the match and earn a place in the fifth round. You’ll be able to find out this evening when the draw is made on TalkSport 2. With regards to who they’ll want in the draw, I don’t think they’ll mind at all, as long as it’s a home tie.
Saints: Rendell, E.Morris, Parnell (Sievwright), Rafferty, Freeland (Mott), Williams (Rood), Pharoah (Ware), C.Morris, Kendell (Pusey), Rutherford, Collett
Bristol City: Bentley, Powell, Murray, Aspin, Cataldo (Jhamat), Palmer, Johnson, Davies (Kuyken), Morgan, Cook (Beever-Jones), Harrison (Woolley)