Southampton Women pulled off a stunning 4-3 comeback win against Billericay Town in the Quarter-Finals of the FA Women’s National League Plate.
The visitors found themselves 3-0 up inside 25 minutes but the Sirens pulled two back, a Zoe Rushen own goal and one for Rachel Okoro, before half-time.
It was end to end but Southampton levelled through Okoro before the teenager completed her hat-trick late on after Town had been reduced to ten players.
Aaron Smith selected a strong starting-XI with Hope Suominen leading the line and.
The Sirens were positive with quick attacks coming through Okoro and her speed but the team didn’t test the goalkeeper once inside the box.
That positive start was short lived when Billericay took their chance from a throw in that was misjudged by all and fell to the feet of Karesha Iton who turned her defender to bury the opener.
Minutes later Town has doubled their lead as Beau Parker’s powerful header got the best of Sara Luce from a corner.
In the 24th minute it got worse for Southampton when Ruby Sealey drove down the wing beating Chloe Tucker and Kirsty Whitton.
Sealey’s effort was parried by Luce into the path of Mia Robins who found the gap between the keeper and the on rushing Lauren Cheshire.
For those watching on it looked like a mountain to climb for the hosts but with 65 minutes left to play there was time to create a miracle.
Both teams were engaged in some physical battles as Summer Kilby, Jas Nassar and Suominen often made their presence known.
Heads hadn’t dropped for the Sirens who were then presented with an opportunity when Kilby’s shot was deflected over for a corner.
Laura Vokes swung the ball in where Tucker rose the highest but it was Billericay’s Rushen who put the ball into the back of her own net.
One goal down two more to go to level it and Southampton wasted no time in getting the second.
Shannon Sievwright hooked the ball forward where Suominen controlled it back to the midfielder to put Britt Jeal through on goal.
Billericay’s Alex Baker came off her line to put Jeal off but the forward picked out Okoro to finish on the half volley.
The deficit was now just one goal with 55 minutes left, it was now anyone’s game.
Attacks came for both sides, Tucker was in superb form making crucial tackles and interceptions as Billericay flew forward with the visitors’ defence equally up to the challenge.
It was a gritty start to the second half as both teams were quick to close each other down.
Cheshire and Vokes missed the target from a succession of free-kicks before Sievwright had a shot parried wide.
Baker was called into action again when Suominen’s cross was well met by Jeal however, had it gone in the goal wouldn’t have stood as the forward was caught offside.
With 68 minutes played the equaliser was found and stunned the visitors.
Suominen went to ground on the turn with calls from the home for a free-kick however, the ball kept going as the referee waved play on.
Baker had come off of her line only to be beaten to it by the speed of Okoro who then shrugged off the recovering defender to level the scores for the first time.
The game had more to say when Jones was sent off for a second yellow card in the 74th minute.
Down to ten players and with the Sirens now on a high the game was wonderfully poised heading into the final 15 minutes.
Tucker continued to be alert to Billericay’s attacking threats while Jeal had a shot blocked on the edge of the penalty area.
Late into the game a winner would be found.
Another corner for the hosts, Vokes the taker was delivered deep to Whitton who knocked it down.
The defence failed to deal with it properly as the ball was sent into the air and once again Okoro was alert, jumping the highest to smash in her third and the Sirens’ fourth.
With seven minutes to go Southampton had done what looked impossible 60 minutes ago and taken the lead against the National League Southern Premier side.
Suominen within a minute of the restart almost joined Okoro on the score sheet her strike forced Baker into a great save.
Southampton kept their composure to defend well into the dying moments and could finally celebrate reaching their first national semi-final at the referee’s whistle.