BHASVIC 3 (Butcher 6; Evans 21; Ward-Penny 40)
Onslow 2 (Sende pen 39; Fisher 59)
Brighton’s BHASVIC powered into the last eight of the Association of Colleges National Cup with a hard-fought victory over a young, but talented, Onslow St Audrey’s Academy at the Withdean Stadium.
The Hertfordshire side, comprising 16- and 17-year-olds, dominated the start of both halves but were undone by BHASVIC’s first-half comeback which left them facing a daunting second-half challenge, which they so nearly met.
The game hinged on two crucial incidents – the home side’s instant response to restore their two-goal lead after Onslow had pulled one back with a penalty just before half-time, and Ellie Ramsauer’s cynical foul on Elysia Ramsdale two minutes from time when the striker was through on goal with just the keeper to beat.
Ramsauer, the BHASVIC captain, was rightly sent off, but her opposite number, Lucy Sende, hit the resulting free-kick over the bar, ending Onslow’s hopes of taking the tie into extra-time.
Onslow’s manager, Gary Bailey, was infuriated not so much by the foul, which denied his side a real chance of an equaliser, but by the reaction of BHASVIC coach Joe McTiffen, who, he said, applauded his captain’s actions.
It was a pity that such a good, competitive cup tie should end on a sour note, for both sides played a full part in a game of fluctuating fortunes, in which Onslow sporadically threatened to grab that equaliser that had looked some way off when BHASVIC hit their third just before the break.
In the end, the hosts’ well-organised defence and classy goalkeeper, Nina Wilson, ensured there was to be no fairy-tale comeback for the Hatfield side, who, with age on their side, look set to have a big say in college football over the next couple of years.
BHASVIC, meanwhile, are a step closer to fulfilling McTiffen’s pre-season target of the national semis, as well as winning the Sussex schools and national league titles.
They reached the last four with a performance full of guts and resilience under pressure, on top of the high-quality football produced by the likes of Ramsauer, Henna Butcher and Chloe Evans.
Yet they certainly did not have it all their own way.
Claudia Attenborough and Sende combined brilliantly almost from the kick-off, playing a neat one-two down the left touchline before the former overran the ball.
Ramsdale quickly stamped her mark on the game, running at her opponents at will and forcing much of the opening exchanges to be played deep in BHASVIC territory.
The home side were struggling to keep the ball and were forced to resort to scrambled clearances, denying their front-runners any opportunity to test Onslow’s back line.
But after weathering the early storm, BHASVIC started seeing more of the ball and the tide began to turn.
Composed play by Butcher almost sent Alice Chambers away, but she was denied by an offside flag.
And with 11 minutes gone, the home side won the game’s first corner, courtesy of excellent work by Emily Towner down the right.
It was immediately followed by a second, which Chambers delivered to perfection, and Butcher rammed the ball home from close range after a scramble in the area.
BHASVIC could have had a second a minute later when Summer Dutton caught a defender in possession and found Ella Ward-Penny, but she shot just wide.
On 16 minutes, Ward-Penny laid the ball off for the on-rushing Butcher, whose shot under pressure was parried by Onslow’s goalkeeper Robyn Harvey-Smith, but there was no-one following up to capitalise on the loose ball.
BHASVIC almost immediately won their third corner as they began to seize the initiative, but their opponents earned a moment’s respite with a clinical break, Attenborough sending Bolu Fisher away down the left to earn Onslow their first corner of the match.
Sende’s low kick was given straight back to her and her second cross caused BHASVIC their first real defensive headache, but they managed to clear.
The game was blossoming into a decent battle, and on 18 minutes the dangerous Ward-Penny lobbed Harvey-Smith, only to see her effort drift wide of the goal.
Three minutes later BHASVIC had a second. Wilson’s excellent drop-kick was cleverly headed on by Lydia Zareb into the path of Evans, who calmly slotted past Harvey-Smith after leaving Onslow’s defence for dead.
But the goal failed to demoralise the visitors, who continued to give BHASVIC’s defence a tough time, thanks in particular to Ramsdale and Attenborough.
They won their second corner in the 25th minute when Nia Hall did well to stop the marauding Attenborough.
Sende’s superb kick was punched from underneath the bar by Wilson.
Butcher and Ramsauer were beginning to take a grip of midfield, the latter making two crunching tackles that seemed to lift her side. And just ahead of them, Evans, running from deep, was causing the visitors’ defence all sorts of problems.
But still Onslow continued to hit back, and it took an excellent save by Wilson, after Paris Coldicote-Stephens had played Ramsdale in, to keep BHASVIC’s clean sheet intact, the goalkeeper diving bravely at the striker’s feet, timing her move to perfection.
In the 31st minute it was BHASVIC’s turn to threaten again, Evans finding Ward-Penny with a volleyed pass, but the striker fired narrowly over.
On 34 minutes, Fisher created space to shoot on the turn, but Wilson was down quickly to save at full-stretch.
Hall showed the composure that had been lacking in the opening 10 minutes to intercept a pass and find Ramsauer, who slid a perceptive ball to Chambers down the left, but she was halted by Aimee Smith’s well-timed tackle.
Butcher’s inswinging corner kick was pushed out from under the bar by Harvey-Smith, who caught Butcher’s next flag-kick in almost the same spot.
Onslow still looked dangerous on the break, though, and on 39 minutes they were presented with a way back into the game when Anika Wilson was penalised for hand-ball.
Sende sent Wilson the wrong way from the spot, and Onslow sensed a comeback.
But immediately from the restart, BHASVIC hit them with a sucker-punch that was to prove so crucial in the context of the game.
Chambers outsprinted her marker and sent over a superb first-time low cross from the left, which Harvey-Smith could only push out, and Ward-Penny reacted before any defender to restore her team’s two-goal lead.
Onslow, desperate to drag themselves back into the match again before half-time, again put the BHASVIC defence under pressure, but time and again, Hall came to the rescue.
Her superb tackle on Attenborough triggered a sequence of three corners in the space of a minute, the third of which produced a vital save from Wilson.
Half-time: BHASVIC 3-1 Onslow
Onslow began the second half much as they had the first as they sought the early goal that would get them back into the game.
Lisa Miliken found Fisher, who turned brilliantly, but her effort was blocked.
The striker was proving a handful for BHASVIC with her movement and ability to hold the ball.
But the Brighton side were still a threat on the break, and when Butcher intercepted a pass to send Ward-Penny away, Harvey-Smith did just enough as she dived at the striker’s feet to deny her a second goal.
Just before the hour, it was Onslow who pulled themselves back into the contest with the goal of the game.
Coldicote-Stephens dispossessed Evans in midfield and found Ramsdale, who combined cleverly with Fisher, the latter firing an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box beyond the reach of Wilson.
On 64 minutes Harvey-Smith had to be alert to whip Ramsauer’s free-kick off substitute Annie Bridges’ toe.
Then Harvey-Smith did similarly at the other end after Butcher had sent another BHASVIC substitute, Biba Pigott, away.
The tempo slowed as both sides tired, but with BHASVIC’s defence so well organised by Zareb, and their midfield content to contain, Onslow were forced to attempt over-ambitious passes in the hope that the willing Fisher and Ramsdale might latch on to one of them.
The game continued to ebb and flow, and as it entered the final 10 minutes, BHASVIC began to seize back the initiative. But the tireless Sende appeared to be doing the work of two people, mopping up for Onslow in both midfield and defence.
And in the 86th minute Onslow’s sent their opponents a reminder that the game was not over. Lucy Abbot found Milliken with a superb pass, and Fisher just failed to connect with the winger’s low angled cross.
Then, with just two minutes remaining, Onslow had a wonderful chance to draw level. For once, BHASVIC’s defence was caught napping by a ball over the top and Ramsdale accelerated away, only to be caught by Ramsauer’s challenge.
As the striker received treatment, the BHASVIC captain was shown a red card, but Onslow were unable to exact full punishment, as Sende hit the free-kick from 25 yards just over the bar.
The final whistle triggered jubilant celebrations from McTiffen and his players but fury on the away bench.
Onslow’s manager, Gary Bailey, was far from happy with how his opposite number had reacted to Ramsauer’s late foul.
He told Sent Her Forward: “The decision by their manager to applaud a tackle like that, in which a player gets sent off, is embarrassing, to say the least.
“[Ramsdale] was through with only the goalkeeper to beat, but that’s irrelevant. People make tackles in a game. But to actually applaud a tackle like that shows what kind of a team they actually are.”
Bailey lamented the third BHASVIC goal which put them 3-1 up less than 60 seconds after his side had pulled one back. But he was more concerned about the defending for the first two.
He said: “The third goal, they hit us on the break, and you’re always vulnerable when you score. But the other two goals were gifted to them. It was scrappy by us and they didn’t have to work for those two.
“The third one, they hit us on the break. The girls were still celebrating and will accept that was their own fault. And fair play to their number 10 who finished it off – to make the run into the box and be that bright and alert straight away [after the Onslow goal] is a credit to them.
“The earlier two were sloppy by our standards. It was just poor decision-making at the time.”
Bailey acknowledged the importance of a quick response after half-time. “We needed a goal, but I think we needed it a little bit earlier,” he said.
“The first 10, probably 20, minutes, they rarely got into our half. Anything they had going forward was from our indecision and indecisive passing in the final third.
“In the second half, again we came out brightly. I think they only had one or two opportunities… to actually create anything. The rest was all played in their half.
“[BHASVIC] were behind the ball and they were organised, but we should have done a lot better.
“I’m disappointed in the way we played today. We’re normally sharper, brighter. Our league status (they top their division) shows how well the girls can play and what they can achieve.
“This is their first season. We’ve never had a girls’ team before. To get to this stage, they’ve done really well. They got to the quarter-finals of the schools national cup, as well.
“For a first season, if they go out and win the league, that’s success to them. We don’t have a player over 17. They’re all first years, so they’ll grow and they’ll learn from this, and they’ll develop.
“Then next season, with a couple of additions in certain areas, they’re just going to get stronger and stronger.”
Joe McTiffen admitted Ramsauer’s foul won BHASVIC the game.
He said: “Second half we were under the cosh. I thought Onslow played very well and they exploited our back four. The two girls up top were very strong on the ball. A quality second goal from them and then the last 20 minutes I was a bit concerned.
“Then Rambo (Ramsauer) made a professional foul, and that saved us the game in the end. The only issue is that could suspend her for the next round. We’ll have to see about that.”
But he stressed he was not applauding Ramsauer’s tackle but her contribution to the game as she walked off.
“[Onslow] probably dominated most of the game, but in the first half, with the amount of chances we had, I think we should have scored more than we did.
“I said to the girls at half-time that it looked like their weakness was the back four and their strength was up top, and we scored the majority of our goals [with balls] over the top. They were quality finishes.
“The most important thing was when they did score their penalty, within 20 seconds we responded, and that killed the game.”
McTiffen praised the contribution of all-action midfielder Butcher, who he said had now scored 17 goals in six games for the college.
And he also paid tribute to goalkeeper Nina Wilson, who plays for Brighton. He said: “She’s come on in leaps and bounds, especially training with Brighton three or four times a week. You can really see it in her game, especially her kicking off the floor.
“From the start of the season to now she has really improved, and it takes a lot of pressure off the back four. And she’s a leader out there – she’s our vice-captain and she really does push the girls, which is what you need.”
This was an excellent cup tie, with both sides enjoying periods of ascendancy but BHASVIC making rather more of theirs. From front to back, both teams had match winners, and despite the acrimony that followed Ramsauer’s sending-off, the game was played – as always seems to be the case at youth level – in good spirit.
Sent Her Forward player of the match: Elysia Ramsdale (Onslow)
It was hard to split the contributions of the BHASVIC players, who performed well as a team, with Henna Butcher, Chloe Evans, Ellie Ramsauer, Lydia Zareb and Nia Hall standing out.
But Onslow’s – who had their fair share of excellent contributors – relied very much on the strength pace and it has to be said, skill of their their most attacking players, Bolu Fisher, Claudia Attenborough and Ramsdale.
For me, Ramsdale’s was the greatest contribution. She scared the BHASVIC defence every time she had the ball. She pulled them out of position, she ran at them, she brushed past them. And she was unlucky to be on the losing side.
Both goalkeepers, BHASVIC’s excellent Nina Wilson and Onslow’s Robyn Harvey-Smith, also deserve great credit for their performances in a pulsating cup tie, as does Lucy Sende, their captain, who never stopped running.
Sent Her Forward match rating: 7/10 Exciting match, full of admirable commitment and unyielding challenges.