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Newbury Ladies 2 Hertford Town 1
Newbury claimed a place in the Fourth Qualifying Round of the SSE Women's FA Cup for the first time in their history after a hard fought 2-1 home win over Hertford Town at Kintbury Rangers FC.
The Southern Region League Premier Division hosts were two goals to the good at the break but the Eastern Region League Division One visitors pulled a goal back just after the hour and exerted great pressure for much of the final half hour.
Hertford nearly opened the scoring in the first minute, Newbury keeper Nicky Isted saving well from Bilge Taspinar before Becky Shephard crashed the rebound against the upright. The home team soon found their feet and forced three corners in quick succession. Hertford looked dangerous on the break, Shephard firing just wide on 18 minutes but Newbury had the majority of play, moving the ball very neatly at times.
The deadlock was broken on 37 minutes with a well crafted goal. Nicole Beesley, who had a fine game, did well to retain possession under pressure then find Amy McNab who played in skipper Caroline Harkness for a lofted finish past Hertford keeper Michelle Bridgeman.
Hertford's Taspinar was close to levelling when set up by skipper Kerry Oldham but Newbury doubled their advantage on 42 minutes. Kendall Gilmour played in an inviting free kick from wide left and Ellie Reed nipped in to lob a header over Bridgeman to give the hosts a comfortable interval lead.
Hertford returned with strong intent after the break but Newbury held firm until the hour when Taspinar was tripped as she broke into the area and Shephard converted the spot kick confidently. Newbury were very close to restoring the two goal margin on 64 minutes but McNab was denied by a superb defensive tackle by Olivia Worsfold then Bridgeman dealt well with the subsequent corner under pressure.
Hertford were looking more and more dangerous as the game entered the final twenty minutes. Lisa Kline raced clear to two occasions, then Shephard fired over from close in after a fine run from halfway. A series of corners were well defended by Newbury and with substitute Maria Rodrigues providing useful support in midfield, it seemed that the hosts had done enough to clinch the win.
Deep into added time, Hertford won a free kick on halfway and the delivery found Taspinar ten yards out. A crisp low volley seemed destined for the bottom corner until keeper Isted reacted superbly to turn the ball wide of goal and clinch a home win by the narrowest of margins.
This tie was in the best traditions of the competition, evenly and fiercely contested, with several outstanding individual performances on both sides, but it is Newbury who went through to the Fourth Qualifying Round draw.
Newbury Ladies: Nicky Isted, Lauren Hanson, Kendall Gilmour, Hannah Byrne, Megan Kirby, Sam Atkins, Caroline Harkness, Rebecca Walker, Ellie Reed, Nicole Beesley, Amy McNab. Subs: Maria Rodrigues, Leanne Saunders, Lorna Kinder-Parr.
Hertford Town: Michelle Bridgeman, Donna Watts, Olivia Worsfold, Lauren Barnard, Freya Rampley, Claire Pavett, Lisa Kline, Carly Snell, Becky Shephard, Bilge Taspinar, Kerry Oldham. Sub: Chloe Allen.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Michelle Bridgman and Lisa Kline combine to foil Amy McNab
(middle) Kendall Gilmour tries to close down Becky Shephard
(bottom) Bilge Taspinar under pressure from Kendall Gilmour
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