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Crawley Wasps 0 MSA Ladies 0
(MSA Ladies won 3-0 on penalties)
MSA Ladies, who play in Walthamstow, North East London, progressed to the Third Round of the FA Women's Cup via a penalty shoot out victory against Crawley Wasps at Cowfold FC near Horsham.
Both are London & South East Regional teams and had already progressed further than ever before in the competition, The young Wasps team, who got past two Combination level opponents to reach the Second Round, are mid-table in the Premier Division whereas MSA are lower ranked but unbeaten in Division One (London). There was absolutely nothing to choose between them over 120 goalless minutes of high intensity football. However, MSA took only three successful spot kicks to win the tie, as the home team failed to convert any of their own for a heartbreaking end to their FA Cup run.
Having disposed of Westfield, a Premier Division rival of the Wasps in the previous round, MSA may have had some idea of the extent of the challenge which faced them. Crawley offered the greater threat early on with Abigail Knight firing just over on four minutes. MSA started slowly in attack, not threatening until the 26th minute when Wasps keeper Rachel Hillman was quickly off her line to foil Natasha Ademakinawa, who was the first of several players injured in a highly committed encounter. Hillman herself took a knock in diving at the feet of Samrawit Beraket as MSA started to carve out chances. Katrina Smith had a shot saved after a long run and the visitors looked the more likely to score coming up to the break.Ademakinawa broke clear but dragged the final chance of the half wide from twelve yards.
Wasps made a positional change which gave them far more threat in the second half. Holly Walker, who had a fine game, moved up front from the back four and the home side dominated much of the second half. MSA keeper Natalie Burnett took a nasty blow on the ankle which left her struggling for mobility but she made two fine saves from Natalie Stephenson set pieces, turning goalbound efforts away at full stretch. MSA also created a number of promising situations but their best efforts were both foiled by offside.flags. In truth, though, both rearguards and keepers played really well with any number of last ditch catches,.tackles and interceptions. MSA skipper Atefeh Heivary, playing in a sweeper role, and Wasps dominant centre back Laura Elliott were the pick of two well disciplined and organised defences which ensured that the game would go the full distance.
Both teams had periods of dominance in the final half hour with the game becoming increasingly stretched, as the prize of a Third Round place remained in the balance. The heavy pitch took its toll, with frequent visits from the respective physios to deal with cramp and knocks due to the highly competitive nature of the battle. Whilst MSA finished slightly on top, they could not fashion a late winner and the match went to a shootout.
MSA went first and were faultless from the spot. Bennett saved the second Wasps kick and two more were lofted high into the early evening sky. After almost three hours of highly competitive football, it was the visitors who were celebrating and the large crowd who consoled the home players with lengthy and deserved applause. Both teams had given a great effort worthy of the importance of the occasion and neither deserved to lose. With near neighbours Enfield Town and Tottenham Hotspur still in the competition, MSA (short for Mauritius Sports Association) will hope for an exciting draw, preferably at home, in the next round.
Crawley Wasps: Rachel Hillman, Eva Matiska, Laura Elliott, Laura Harding, Abigail Knight, Aston Worsfold, Natalie Stephenson, Toni Smith, Holly Walker, Zoe Martin, Michelle Ward. Subs: Laura Smith, Emma Jaymes, Michelle Smith, Lucia Turner.
MSA Ladies: Natalie Bennett, Devina Joseph-Albert, Kate Shipley, Ayo Okunvea, Emma McIntosh, Safina Omari, Katrina Smith, Natasha Ademakinawa, Faye Callaway, Samrawit Beraket, Atefah Heivary. Sub: Natalie Duggan.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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