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Wealdstone 3 AFC Dunstable 2
Wealdstone take their place in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Women's Cup after a comeback 3-2 victory over AFC Dunstable at Grosvenor Field.
In an incident packed encounter, the Greater London League Division One team rode their luck at times, especially with Dunstable hitting the woodwork in the second half and piling on late pressure, but the young Stones team played with great heart and application against their Eastern Region League Premier Division opponents and created a number of great chances of their own in addition to the match winning goals.
It was the higher ranked visitors who drew first blood as early as the fourth minute through Kerry Stratton but Wealdstone were soon level from a powerful 12 yard Rosie Watts strike off the underside of the bar from the left side of the box. Danielle Forde had a fine effort on the turn for the hosts which hit the bar but play settled to an even pattern through the middle of the half.
An opportunist effort from distance restored Dunstable's lead on 33 minutes with Stratton notching her second via a fine looping effort from 25 yards. Watts was proving a lively outlet from the left and a dangerous cross was expertly dealt with by Dunstable's Lauren Chimes with an interception and clearance.
Rebecca Mills had an effort saved by Emma Fisher as Wealdstone finished the half with a flourish but Dunstable held the advantage at the break.
Lauren Cunningham made the first of several good second half runs to earn a corner and keep Wealdstone pressing forward in the early minutes the second half. Dan Carty was very influential for the visitors and their first attempt of the half which drifted wide from 20 yards.
Wealdstone equalised after a spell of pressure on 58 minutes, Watts again finishing from the left of the area after missing a good chance a minute earlier. Storm Burrows had an effort well held by Fisher after an excellent Cunningham cross as Wealdstone sought the lead for the first time.
The introduction of striker Tamara Bayne gave Dunstable a real boost and they went extremely close to regaining the lead on several occasions. A Carty corner was met by the attackers and the ball appeared to strike the post twice in as many seconds in a scramble. A few minutes later, Carty delivered a free kick which was headed back across goal by Carly Cowell.
Wealdstone keeper Amanda Russell made a crucial save in a one on one, bravely blocking and holding on to a shot on the edge of her area. Lauren Simmons had a fine match for the hosts covering at the back and making crucial interceptions at the height of Dunstable pressure.
Forde had a huge chance to give Stones the lead but having done well to power through the defence she blasted wide from close range on 72 minutes. Stratton went on a fine run and set up Bayne for a shot well held by Russell as play flowed from end to end.
The winning goal came from the spot in unusual circumstances on 85 minutes. Keeper Fisher caught a bouncing ball under pressure from Watts and was adjudged to have fouled the attacker after the collision. The Wealdstone third led to a frantic finale with seven minutes of additional time giving Dunstable the chance to fashion several great chances to take the tie into extra time.
Home keeper Russell was sent off after being penalised for handling outside the area in saving another one-on-one situation and Carty had two free kicks in promising positions. Two more shots from distance flew narrowly wide as Dunstable pressed high and Wealdstone could not relieve the pressure. In a dramatic finale Bayne had a final effort from the edge of the area which crashed against the bar just before the final whistle allowed Wealdstone to celebrate progress after a nail biting end to a fine match.
Both clubs are on the up after winning their respective Leagues in style last season, Wealdstone moving from the Thames Valley County Women's League to the Greater London League's top division. Dunstable are having a taste of the top Regional tier after successive promotions and both clubs have the use of excellent facilities to match their progress. It is Wealdstone who will have an interest in Monday's draw but it was a close run and exciting affair.
Wealdstone: Amanda Russell, Rebecca Salmons, Katie Harling, Lauren Simmons, Holly Robinson, Rebecca Mills, Storm Burrows, Lauren Cunningham, Rosie Watts, Danielle Forde, Sophie Murphy. Subs: Ocean Gregory, Giovanna Monachello, Nicola Fraser.
AFC Dunstable: Emma Fisher, Steph Fisher, Lauren Chimes, Elly Wade, Julia Robathan, Dan Carty, Carly Cowell, Holly Skinner, Kerry Stratton, Kayleigh Nias, Chelsea Forde. Subs: Tamara Bayne, Katie Ross.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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