Two-goal Hollie Wride booked Watford an FA Cup fifth-round tie at Chelsea – but the Super League side had to overcome an incredible effort by Premier League strugglers Keynsham Town to get through.
Wride, 21, a former Chichester City midfielder, who usually plays at left-back for the WSL side, scored her first ever goal for the club and followed it 13 minutes later with her second as Watford were given a tough workout with their opening league game still a fortnight away.
Watford’s manager, John Salomon, was relieved to get through, but he admitted to his club’s website: “We know that we weren’t at our best today and there’s improvements that need to be made before the season starts in a couple of weeks.”
Keynsham, bottom of the FAW Premier League Southern, wiithout a win all season, deserve immense credit for holding a WSL2 side to such a narrow margin, scoring through Justine Lorton-Radburn, and seem to have reserved their best performances for cup competitions, having defeated the dangerous Carshalton Athletic 5-2 away in the previous round.
But Wride’s double saw Watford through, and they were rewarded with a glamour tie at star-studded Chelsea, who missed out on the WSL1 title last season on goal difference.
Wride told her club’s website: “I’m really pleased to be able to help the side progress to the next round… We have got much more to give than what we showed today.”
While a struggling Premier League side was putting up a brave fight before going down, another side from a tier further down the winter pyramid was faring even better against a side who hope to be in the running for a Super League spot.
Crystal Palace, currently third in South East Division One of the Premier League set-up, held Charlton Athletic, currently fourth in the Premier League Southern, not only over 90 minutes but throughout extra-time before their London neighbours went through on penalties.
We are so proud of our Ladies today. Narrowly going out of FA Cup to strong opposition in a penalty shoot out. Great effort by all. #cpfc
— #CPLFC (@PalaceLadiesFC) March 8, 2015
Charlton led 2-0 at half-time, through goals by Amy Howlett and Kit Graham, but two from Rochelle Shakes pulled Palace level in the second half.
Top-scorer Graham‘s second looked to have won it for Charlton, who knocked Brighton out of the Premier League Cup last weekend, but Palace grabbed an 89th-minute equaliser through Angela Kiobel.
There was no further scoring in extra-time, so the tie went to penalties, which Charlton eventually won 4-2 to set up a fifth-round contest at Coventry City, who currently lead the Northern division of the Premier League – goalkeeper Megen Lynch once again a hero after saving the crucial spot-kick and scoring one.
Another Premier League Southern side, Tottenham Hotspur, are also through after defeating their Northern division counterparts, Derby County, who had squeezed past Eastbourne Town in the previous round, 3-0.
Spurs’ goals all came in the first half, from Lucia Leon, Katie O’Leary and Avilla Bergin. They will visit WSL1 Notts County, who put out Portsmouth last season, in the next round.
Their reserves made it a cup double with a 3-2 extra-time win over AFC Phoenix to reach the final of the Capital Cup.
Millwall Lionesses‘ reward for beating Portsmouth 4-1 is a home FA Cup fifth-round tie against Arsenal.
The final, on August 1, is to be played at Wembley Stadium for the first time – a clear indication of the progress of the women’s game and its increased popularity.
Brave Wivi take holders to extra-time
It was not just the FA Cup that inspired heroism and bravery in defeat.
Wivelsfield Green, of the South East Counties Division One West, took the League Cup holders, Herne Bay, to extra-time in their semi-final at the Hanbury Stadium, Haywards Heath, before bowing out 4-2.
Wivi, who are a division below their opponents, had taken a 2-0 half-time lead before the Premier Division title hopefuls galvanised themselves for a second-half comeback.
However, despite Wivelsfield losing two key defenders to injury, Bay could not make the breakthrough in 90 minutes, and it took two goals early in extra-time finally to kill off their spirited opponents.
Jade Gardiner, who had put Wivi ahead against Brighton in the Sussex Challenge Cup earlier in the season, did it again against the Kent side. Hayley Plummer doubled the lead to set up the prospect of one of the most unlikely giant-killings of the women’s season before Vicky Holness pulled one back shortly after half-time.
Harriet Chapman, Holness’s goal-hungry strike partner, came off the bench to grab an equaliser and then, after Debbie Blackmore had put Herne Bay ahead for the first time, from a controversial penalty, Chapman rounded off the scoring to earn the current trophy holders another final, to be played on their own ground on April 19.
They will face fellow Kent side Dartford Royals, who clinched their place last weekend.
The pair are also involved in a four-way fight for the Premier Division title with Meridian and Long Lane, both of whom won on Sunday.
Challengers make ground
Former leaders Meridian, in their first game for five weeks, overcame a spirited Parkwood Rangers, who had held Herne Bay to a goalless draw in midweek, eventually triumphing 2-1. Amy Russ scored both Meridian’s goals.
Keeley Wheatley scored two more for Burgess Hill Town, who defeated Eastbourne 2-1, the East Sussex side’s goal coming from Lucy Collinson.
Meanwhile, Long Lane remained in the title hunt with a 6-1 victory over bottom club Crockenhill, who remain one point adrift of South Park, who were in Surrey County Cup action.
The Reigate side crashed 5-0 to AFC Wimbledon, of the London & South East Regional League, in the semi-finals. Wimbledon will meet Carshalton Athletic in the final.
It was a special day for all at the London club, whose youth teams also enjoyed cup success.
— AFC Wimbledon Ladies (@AFCWim_Ladies) March 8, 2015
Fellow L&SERWL club London Corinthians beat Fulham Foundation 1-0 in the League Cup.
Actonians add to Aylesford woes
And in the league, Old Actonians took advantage of Fulham and Wimbledon’s cup involvement to extend their lead over Fulham to six points, having played two games more.
They beat Aylesford 6-1 to pile more misery on the Kent strugglers, with a hat-trick from Natasha Cree, two from Carla Williams and one from Sharon Odofin.
Carshalton Athletic remain in the hunt at the top following their 2-1 win at Hassocks, who despite picking up only two points all season, ran their in-form opponents close.
Crawley Wasps returned to form with a 4-1 victory over KIKK United, who last week overturned Carshalton in the League Cup. Rebecca Carter scored three and Jade Simmonds the other. Sophie LeMarchand scored for the Londoners.
There was a double triumph for Maidstone United, who beat Eastbourne Town in a double-header at the Gallagher Stadium, 3-0 in both games.
Johnsons in the goals as Abbey and Prince reach cup final
Back in the South East Counties League, the Chairman’s Cup final will be between Abbey Rangers and Prince of Wales.
Abbey beat Bexhill United Reserves 5-0, with Rachel Johnson scoring four and her sister, Hannah the other. Prince of Wales had a much tougher match against promotion rivals Ashford, eventually prevailing 1-0 after extra-time. Maria Wharfe scored the deciding goal.
With the two title contenders in cup action, the attention was at the other end of Division One East, where Aylesford Reserves are in real trouble after crashing 6-1 to Faversham Elizabethans.
The scores were level after 30 minutes when Chloe Baker quickly cancelled out Danielle Muckian‘s opener.
But an own goal on the stroke of half-time turned the tide, and Faversham ran out convincing winners, Muckian finishing with two.
Aylesford are now on their own at the bottom after Anchorians 2nds pulled away, thanks to a 2-0 win at Thanet Colts.
Title hopefuls pile up the goals
There were big victories for two of the top teams in Division One West.
Worthing Minors are 13 points clear at the top after beating local rivals Worthing Town 7-2, although the home side gave them a scare, twice leading through Dulcie Elder strikes.
But Minors clinched their 14th win in 15 league games, thanks to two more from goal machine Danni Lane and one apiece from Hannah Lane, Becky Beale, Hayley Bridge, Philippa Langridge and Aliss Pidduck.
They can still mathematically be caught by Abbey Rangers, but more realistic rivals are Seahaven Harriers, who returned to league action with a thumping 8-0 win at Dorking.
Katie Franks (3), Lauren Smith (2), Emma Flynn, Emma Woodcock and an own goal kept Seahaven within 14 points of the leaders, and with four games in hand. The sides still have to play each other twice.
Dorking have now lost all 12 of their league fixtures.
Margate maintain astonishing revival
Margate continued their remarkable second half of the season, beating bottom club University of Kent 7-0 for their fourth win in a row and fifth consecutive game unbeaten.
Beth Cooper scored four and Kara Richardson three, to take the side who were second-to-bottom a couple of months ago to within four points of third-placed Anchorians 3rds, who drew 1-1 at London Corinthians Reserves.
Dark horses Rottingdean slip into third
An Amy Clark hat-trick gave Rottingdean Village a 3-2 victory over Hurstpierpoint and lift them into third in the Sussex County Women’s League. Chloe Ansell and Stacy Jackson scored the visitors’ goals.
Jarvis Brook won 4-3 at Worthing Town.
Southdown‘s bid to end the Under-16 season with a perfect record was foiled in their final fixture, when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Bexhill United. Paris Curran and Eleanor MacIntyre scored the goals for Southdown, who still won the league at a canter, finishing the season with eight wins and a draw from their nine games.
Horsham Sparrows climbed off the bottom of the Surrey County League Under-18 division – albeit on goal difference – after gaining their first point in 12 attempts – a 0-0 draw at home to Kempton.
Five-star Lewes pile on misery for Copsewood
Lewes hit five in a welcome return to form at Copsewood Coventry. Kim Stenning, Sian Heather, Kelly Newton, Katie McIntyre and Chloe Winchester each bagged a goal as Lewes consolidated their mid-table position.
It was Copsewood’s 11th league defeat of the season and leaves them second-to-bottom of the Premier League, four points adrift of Gillingham.
However, the Kent side remain in a precarious position after losing 1-0 at home to Queens Park Rangers, for whom Gemma Rudman scored an injury-time winner.
The Gills are 10th and running out of games.
Plymouth Argyle look to have done enough to survive for another season in the Premier League, earning an admirable 0-0 draw against the dangerous – but inconsistent – West Ham United.
South West title fight goes to the wire
Swindon Town edged closer to promotion, beating Division One South West strugglers Cheltenham Town 2-1.
Meg Vella and Sally Butterfield scored the goals that took the Robins to within six points of guaranteeing the league title with two games to play.
But they face a fierce challenge from Forest Green Rovers, who effectively ended Exeter City‘s title hopes with a 4-0 win in Devon.
Forest Green, who also have two games to play, are a point behind.
Rachael Waller was again on target for Chichester City, who maintained their improved recent form with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over bottom club St Nicholas, who have also shown signs of improvement in recent weeks.
Palace Reserves hit 11
Chichester‘s development side were not so successful, losing 2-0 to Portsmouth‘s development side.
Lewes Development lost 6-1 at home to Charlton Athletic Reserves, the leaders of the FAW Premier Reserves League, and Crystal Palace Reserves moved up to third with an 11-1 demolition of Bedford.
C&K Basildon beat Gillingham 1-0 and Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United drew 0-0.