Reserves goalkeeper scores winner in FA Cup extra-time

Leah Etheridge warming up yesterday.

LEAH Etheridge scored in the final half of extra-time to send Southampton Women’s FC through to the Second Round Proper of the Adobe FA Women’s Cup.

After the first two fixtures were postponed due to a flooded pitch, Southampton travelled to Brentford with a Second Round Proper spot up for grabs.

The floodlights of the Bedfont Sports Ground were soon lit up as the sky quickly darkened.

The weather conditions were frightfully cold, and a continuous stream of Airbuses and Boeing 737’s cut through the drizzle to land at Heathrow, just a road away.

Southampton were expected favourites to win, sitting two tiers above Brentford in the National League.

Meg Wood opened the scoring with a neat finish from outside the box, her second of the season.

Brentford proved to be a physical side, and forced Sirens keeper Grace Jenman to pull off a fabulous save, but Wood was soon adding to her tally at the other end.

Southampton’s attack started with Jenman, who rolled the ball to captain Chloe Tucker, and she sent it up the field.

The ball was set to Britt Jeal, who turned and played through Izzie Thorogood.

The young winger got her first assist of the day, setting Wood up on her preferred left foot to finish from outside the box again.

Her hat-trick soon came, after the Sirens were awarded a penalty for a Brentford handball.

The Bees keeper made a brilliant save to push the ball wide, but the penalty was retaken due to early encroachment.

Wood made no mistake in burying the ball for her third of the day.

Brentford, however, remained resilient throughout and pulled a goal back through Nicky Woods.

She beat Lauren Knight to the ball in a foot race and finished in the bottom left corner.

The home spectators were boisterous in their masses, with some lip-syncing to the 90s tracks blaring out through the overhead speakers at half-time.

Brentford manager Karleigh Osborne must consider motivational speaking as a professional career, as his team came back out to draw the game level inside ten minutes of the second half.

Kirsty Matthews headed the ball home from a free header in the box, and two minutes later a second headed goal was scored.

Sirens manager Jamie Lloyd Davies made two substitutions soon after, with Kaitlyn Cousens replacing Lilly Wellesley Davies in defence, and an injured Jeal being replaced by Reserves striker Olivia Payne for her First Team debut.

Payne had an instant impact and chased down the opposition centre-backs to regain possession.

Chloe Ball was brought on as the third substitute to strengthen the attack, and her efforts did not go unnoticed by the Southampton bench.

As the late afternoon grew even darker, the referee blew for full-time.

Southampton are no stranger to FA Cup extra-time and have a successful penalty shootout record (in which they won the SDFA Cup final last season).

Despite heavy legs, both teams tested each other’s defence and both goalkeepers were required to step off their lines to clear.

Thorogood was a vital force down the left wing, but Southampton struggled to get closer to the opposition’s goal.

The score was still even after the first fifteen minutes.

Having played the dying minutes of the first half of extra-time with ten players due to an injured Payne, Lloyd Davies made an emergency substitution.

Reserves goalkeeper Etheridge was brought on in an outfield kit, and minus her gloves, to play up front.

The game remained end-to-end with neither teams breaking through, but as the threat of a shootout drew near, Southampton’s bench and small army of travelling supporters were hectic in celebration as Etheridge found the back of the net.

Thorogood ran the ball from the half-way line to the edge of Brentford’s six-yard box.

She then cut the ball across the face of the goal into Etheridge’s path, and she passed the ball into the back of the net.

The staff were in tears.

Her mum and step-dad were in tears.

Her teammates were screaming.

Brentford’s chances of the next round drew to a close as the final whistle was blown.

Southampton will host Maidenhead United this Sunday at Test Park, with the winner of the tie going on to play Watford.

Full-time: Brentford 3 Southampton 4

Leah Etheridge scores the winner for Southampton. Video: El Reid Media

Photo: El Reid Media

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