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AFC Wimbledon 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 4
Brighton and Hove Albion made a successful start to competitive life as a FA WSL club with a 4-1 away SSE FA Women's Cup Third Round victory over AFC Wimbledon at Sutton United FC.
Three goals in the last fifteen minutes of the first half gave the visitors a comfortable advantage at the break after an even opening half hour and, although Wimbledon pulled a goal back on the hour, Brighton sealed their progress with a late fourth. The FAWPL Division One South East hosts did themselves proud. matching their higher ranked opponents for much of the game, but the attacking flair and finishing ability of Brighton was just too much for them.
Wimbledon's Katie Stanley had the first effort on goal, firing just wide of Emma Byrne's near post in the first minute. Brighton threatened down the left through Sophie Perry at times but it was 21 minutes before Shanell Salgado in the home goal was forced to make a difficult save at the feet of Amy Taylor. Stanley again broke clear on the right for the hosts and her centre was cleared at full stretch as Laura Low closed in on 23 minutes.
Brighton's England Under-17 international signing from Chelsea, Alessia Russo, was getting more and more possession for Brighton on the right wing and it was her cross which led to the opening goal on 29 minutes. Taylor challenged a defender and the ball dropped invitingly for Ellie Dorey to finish. Salgado prevented further damage for the home team denying Kate Natkiel after a powerful run by Vicky Ashton-Jones, before Taylor fired over the rebound. Russo was also involved in the second goal, setting up Taylor with a neat reverse pass for a powerful finish high into the net from a tight angle on 35 minutes.
Salgado made a stunning acrobatic tip over on 39 minutes from a powerful Natkiel drive as Brighton turned on the pressure. The visitors made the most of their strong finish to the half when Natkiel was brought down in the area on 45 minutes and skipper Sophie Perry converted the spot kick to give the Seagulls a commanding lead at the break.
Wimbledon showed good fighting spirit on the restart and constructed several dangerous attacks, the best of which saw Caz Bisson's low shot saved by Byrne. The scoreline was made more realistic just after the hour with arguably the best goal of the day. Jess Trimnell played a measured 30 yard pass over the full back for Hannah Searle to run on to. Searle's first time lob from the left edge of the box cleared Byrne and dropped in off the far post.
Brighton responded positively to this reduction of their advantage and Salgado did well again with two long range efforts . Byrne in the opposing goal had a couple of tricky crosses to catch but Wimbledon were not able to break through the Brighton defence again. The visitors made the game safe on 84 minutes when Laura Rafferty's clearance sent sub Lucy Somes clear of the last defender and she finished well past Salgado.
Both teams can take credit from a competitive match played in front of a crowd in excess of 500. Brighton gave debuts to four new recruits who all contributed fully and showed fluidity and invention in attack and solidity in defence. Wimbledon gave as good as they got for long periods in the match, showing good organisation and confidence on the ball which will stand them in good stead for the remainder of the FAWPL season.
Shanell Salgado, Yasmin Poole, Sami Bock, Rebecca Sargent, Caz Bisson, Laura Low, Jess Trimnell, Georgie O'Halloran, Hannah Billingham, Katie Stanley, Sahara Osborne-Ricketts. Subs: Kelly-Jade Whelan, Hannah Searle, Emma Keady, Samantha Chase, Jordanne Hoesli-Atkins.
Brighton & Hove Albion:
Emma Byrne, Jenna Legg, Charlotte Young, Vicky Ashton-Jones, Sophie Perry, Kate Natkiel, Laura Rafferty, Kirsty Barton, Ellie Dorey, Amy Taylor, Alessia Russo. Subs: Nina Wilson, Bronwen Thomas, Lucy Somes, Natalie Taylor.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Hannah Billingham slides in to tackle Alessia Russo
(middle) Laura Low is up against Charlotte Young and Jenna Legg
(bottom) Katie Stanley hurdles a tackle from Vicky Ashton-Jones
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