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(Luton won 3-1 on penalties)>
Luton Town 1 Kent Football Utd 1
(Luton won 3-1 on penalties)
Luton Town edged into the Second Round of the SSE Women's FA Cup in the closest of the 14 ties played, beating Kent Football United in a penalty shootout after the teams ended 120 minutes of intense and even play locked at one goal apiece.
Luton, of the FAWNL Division One South East, took the penalty honours by three conversions to one from the London & South East Regional newcomers and Kent Cup holders.
The teams cancelled each other out so completely in the first half hour that, apart from a couple of right wing crosses from Kent, there was little to trouble either goalkeeper. Luton fashioned the first big chance from keeper Kezia Hassall's long clearance, two first time touches sending Aurora Ryan clear but her shot was wide of goal. A fine run from Luton's Rachel Kosky then set up Olivia Abraham on the right edge of the area but her effort was well held by Jordan Dawes.
Kent's Rachel Stevens was denied by a fine tackle by Erica Byron on 35 minutes as the visitors continued to threaten the Luton goal at times, but the second big Luton chance fell again to Ryan as she rounded the keeper and got away a shot only for Charleen Cairns to make a superb goal line clearance on 40 minutes.
Chloe Francis on the Kent left wing was a considerable threat and twice in first half added time she was close to scoring, especially in a scramble from an Amy Russ corner, but the score remained blank at the break.
The teams continued to trade chances on the restart, Luton's Dionne Manning having a shot deflected just wide whilst Russ sent in a lob which rebounded off the bar. It was the visitors who struck first on 67 minutes, Kosky being penalised for a challenge and Lizzie Waldie converting the resulting spot kick.
Russ nearly added a second with an inswinging corner soon after and Luton were in need of a lift. Byron nearly provided it with a dangerous corner but it was Nicola Henman who stepped up with a super 25-yard drive on 78 minutes, the ball flying high and beyond the diving Dawes.
Extra time gave Kent's Megan Burrows a good chance in the first minute, but Hassall was alert to block her shot. The same player went close again soon after whilst Henman was just wide with a header for Luton. Generally however, defences dominated with Kosky for Luton and skipper Tash Moloney for Kent excellent in anticipation and tackling.
There was literally nothing between the teams after extra time, with lots of very impressive work from both sets of players. The shootout went Luton's way with Byron, keeper Hassall and finally Kosky converting in style but the losing team can feel proud of a fine effort which pushed their higher ranked opponents all the way.
Kezia Hassall, Rachel Kosky, Rebecca Ferris, Lisa Nixon, Rachel Carter, Amy Summerfield, Nicola Henman, Aurora Ryan, Dionne Manning, Olivia Abraham, Erica Byron. Subs: Angelika Kopec, Grace Stewart, Millie Guest, Kim Newns.
Kent Football Utd:
Jordan Dawes, Becky Burnham, Tash Moloney, Charleen Cairns, Lizzie Waldie, Shannon Burden, Megan Burrows, Lucy Cockerill, Amy Russ, Rachel Stevens, Charley MacNeil. Subs: Ami Burnham, Chloe Francis.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Megan Burrows is challenged by Lisa Nixon
(middle) Shannon Burden battles for the ball with Nicola Henman
(bottom) Olivia Abraham slides in to tackle Charleen Cairns
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