Southampton Women’s sealed a place in the last 16 of the FA Women’s National League for the first time in the club’s history with a 5-1 win over Southern Premier side Cardiff City.
Rachel Okoro scored early against the run of play before Cardiff’s Olivia Thompson equalised however, the Welsh side were reduced to 10 before the break as Harriet Lambe saw red.
The hosts took control in the second-half with goals from Sian Wylie, Britt Jeal, E-J May and Kiera Heslam saw Southampton storm their way to victory and into the Second Round draw.
Aaron Smith fielded a strong starting-XI and had options on the bench that included the return of Kellie Warren following six months out through injury.
Cardiff started the brighter and had several chances in the opening five minutes to give themselves an early lead but failed to convert any of their shots.
With eight minutes on the clock and against the run of play Southampton broke the deadlock.
A Heslam corner wasn’t cleared by City and found Wheeler at the back of the penalty to cross back into the six-yard box where Okoro rose the highest to head the ball back across the goal for her sixth goal of the season.
Southampton began to settle on the ball following the goal and the game opened up with attacks from both teams.
The Cardiff defence intercepted opportunities created by Okoro, Wylie and Jeal while down the other end the Southampton defence was holding firm.
Ellie Parker was called into action as Ellie Sargent powered towards the goal however, the goalkeeper made herself big enough to block the shot before Sam Burt forced a corner from the loose ball.
It was on the half hour mark that City found a way in.
A quick move out wide brought Cori Williams into action who dinked the ball around Lucy Mear for Sargent who’s low cross found the shins of Thompson as the ball ricocheted off her and into the net.
The goal didn’t dampen Southampton who continued to strive forwards and it was as the team looked to build with Mear on the ball Lambe was dismissed for an early shower.
Lambe’s challenge saw her foot come through Mear’s leg from the side without playing the ball and after a brief discussion with the assistant on the far side produced the red card.
Little separated the two sides at the interval as the game was perfectly situated to go either way in the second-half.
Six minutes into the second-half Southampton restored their lead.
Heslam reacted quickly as Cardiff failed to control the ball after Laura O’Sullivan realised it into midfield, the attacker played through to Jeal who timed her ball perfectly for Wylie to race on to and finish into the bottom corner.
Southampton grew in the second-half as they dictated much of play and worked hard on and off the ball.
A third goal came due to a mistake by the Welsh number one who was caught out by the high pressing of Jeal and Heslam.
Jeal knicked the ball from the feet of O’Sullivan who was left stranded in the middle of her own half and could only watch as the attacking midfielder took aim from 30-yards out to make it five goals in five games.
Attacks came for both teams but Cardiff couldn’t take their chances as Parker claimed everything in her path.
As the game drew to a close Mear showed great strength and vision to intercept before sending the ball forwards with May the highest red shirt.
May was quickest on the ball with Katie Jones on her heels, the attacker switch the ball from her right to her left before curling a beautiful shot beyond the defender and keeper that just nestled under the crossbar to cement the result.
Two minutes into injury-time Heslam added a fifth as she control a long clearance from Chloe Tucker and drove into the box before firing low at the near post to get her fourth goal since joining the club.
The final whistle came sending Southampton through to the Second Round of the FA Women’s National League Cup for only the first time in the club’s history.