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Chichester City Utd won the Surrey County Girls League Under-18 League Challenge Cup following a penalty shootout victory over Merstham in the Final.
With just three minutes of extra time remaining, a Chichester victory had looked highly unlikely as Merstham led 4-3 and City were down to ten players following a sending off. However, the courageous Chichester team had other ideas as Laura Pike volleyed home an Abbie Crook cross to set up a penalty shootout and five perfect penalties and one fine save later, the Sussex Champions had won their third trophy in two seasons.
Chichester, playing the final on Merstham's own Ryman League ground, knew they had to start well and silence the large and vociferous home crowd and made the perfect start as Chantelle Clark fired City in front after just five minutes following a surging run and then Abbey Shrubb doubled the advantage on fifteen minutes, converting a pass from Paris Hutton. Chichester played some wonderful football during the first thirty minutes and could have easily added to the score as Shrubb and Clark went close and Imogen Horne rattled the cross bar. Merstham came more into the game and Sam Wiseman made two smart saves before Merstham reduced the deficit just before the break.
The introduction of Sam Parker after the interval invigorated the City attack and it was Parker who restored the two-goal lead, firing into the corner following an excellent move down the left. The game continued at a very fast pace in humid, energy sapping conditions and Laura Pike came close to putting Chichester out of sight, hitting the bar with an excellent strike from distance. Merstham though began to dominate and City had to use all five substitutes to keep the advantage as the game moved into the last ten minutes. Naomi Parfoot made several fine saves as Chichester, for the first time, struggled to contain the movement of the Merstham attack. During this period of play the overworked Vicky Bernard, Rosie Maher and skipper Sian Spicer were outstanding at the back for City. Merstham pulled a goal back from 25 yards and then completed the fightback to take the game into extra time.
Little was seen of City as an attacking force during the first period of extra time and the second period continued in a similar fashion as the City girls looked very tired. It came as no surprise when Merstham took the lead for the first time in the match in the middle of the second period. As Chichester tried to get back into the game they were reduced to ten players. The sending off seemed to galvanise the Chichester team and this, together with the several substitutions Merstham made to slow the game down, handed the initiative back to City. Sian Spicer and Steph Madden drove the team forward and following good work from Laura Sherwood and Abbie Crook, Laura Pike equalised.
In the penalty shoot out, clinical kicks from Parker, Crook, Pike and Spicer put pressure on the fourth Merstham penalty taker and Naomi Parfoot did the rest, diving to her left to make the all important save. In a fitting end to this epic match, the inspirational Steph Madden, who has missed most of the season through injury, converted her penalty to seal the victory and enable Sian Spicer to lift the cup for Chichester.
Chichester City United: Samantha Wiseman, Vicky Bernard, Sian Spicer, Rosie Maher, Amber Maher, Laura Pike, Stephanie Madden, Imogen Horne, Paris Hutton, Abbey Shrubb, Chantelle Clark. Subs: Naomi Parfoot, Laura Sherwood, Samantha Parker, Abbie Crook, Laura Woodroffe.
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