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Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Sporting Club Albion 4
Sporting Club Albion reached the quarter finals of the SSE Women's FA Cup for the first time with a fine 4-3 away win over Brighton & Hove Albion.
The last remaining FAWPL teams provided the crowd at Sussex FA Headquarters in Lancing with a gripping match where the hosts were trailing by three goals inside the first twenty minutes. Brighton then mounted a determined comeback over the next hour to level with ten minutes left but were almost immediately hit by what proved to be the winner for the West Midlands club.
SCA struck with great effect by pressing the Brighton players early and winning the ball back high up the pitch. They had already gone close through an Abi Cottam effort pushed away by keeper Nina Wilson before a corner was met by Sammy Conroy's powerful header which found the far corner.
SCA continued to look the sharper team and Summer Holmes added the second on 14 minutes, breaking clear on the left and firing a shot across Wilson and in off the far post.
Brighton's dreadful start was complete when a defensive mix up allowed Cottam to block an attempted clearance and the rebound rolled into the net on 17 minutes.
Faced with such a deficit, Brighton's only option was to attack and this they did with real flair. SCA were pushed back gradually and defended with great determination whilst Cottam. in particular. offered a dangerous threat on the counter. Brighton's Lucy Somes and Sophie Perry provided a series of crosses for Lisa Fulgence to attack whilst Charlotte Gurr and Kate Natkiel were always seeking to open up a well drilled SCA defence with threaded passes.
SCA keeper Becky Thomas saved well from a header on 35 minutes but was beaten three minutes later when a Somes cross was flicked on for Fulgence to power home from close range. Only a fine double save by Thomas right on the break kept the margin at two, as she beat away a Somes shot then the follow up from Gurr.
Brighton carried on in the same manner on the restart with SCA pushed back more and more in their defensive third and having very little possession. A nasty injury to Holmes led to a lengthy delay but Brighton halved the deficit soon after via a Perry 25-yard free kick which hit the underside of the bar and was adjudged to have dropped over the line.
Perry then sent a cross shot inches wide on 64 minutes and Thomas saved well twice from Natkiel low shots from distance.
Brighton brought on subs Lily Agg and Charley Boswell and it was the latter who completed the comeback, forcing the ball home after yet another scramble in the SCA box on 81 minutes.
There was very little time for Brighton to savour their fightback as SCA won a free kick 35 yards out and the delivery was met by a perfect glancing Conroy header ten yards out, giving Wilson no chance on 84 minutes.
Hard as the hosts tried, they were unable to find another leveller and SCA saw the six added minutes out very well, keeping the ball far from their goal for much of the time with good team play.
Both teams deserve every credit for an encounter full of bravery and commitment. Brighton will rue a poor first twenty minutes but they were caught cold by a dynamic SCA. The home team were dominant for much of the next hour with some fine attacking play met with strong defence by the hard working visitors. Then, just when parity was restored and momentum seemed to favour Brighton, SCA found the perfect riposte and now take their place as the winter pyramid's sole representative in the last eight of the SSE Women's F A Cup, just as Portsmouth and Charlton Athletic proudly achieved in the last two editions of the competition.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Nina Wilson, Amelia Ritchie, Bronwen Thomas, Sophie Perry, Vicky Ashton-Jones, Deanna Cooper, Lucy Somes, Kirsty Barton, Charlotte Gurr, Kate Natkiel, Lisa Fulgence. Subs: Leah Samain, Charley Boswell, Jay Blackie, Lily Agg, Amy Taylor.
Sporting Club Albion: Becky Thomas, Summer Holmes, Kelly Darby, Eleanor Clarke, Natalie Poole, Trina Greaves Hazanna Parnell, Billie Haynes, Abi Cottam, Kelly Highman, Sammy Conroy. Subs: Charlotte Edmunds, Leanne Robinson, Kate Wright, Karen Clough, Kelly Clark.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Kate Natkiel plays the ball past Billie Haynes
(middle) Kirsty Barton under pressure from Summer Holmes
(bottom) Lily Agg finds herself surrounded by Natalie Poole and Kelly Darby
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