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Barnet will be making a similar North East journey to that of their North London neighbours Arsenal this week in the Fifth Round of the F.A.Women's Cup after a hard fought 2-1 victory over Portsmouth at Hanwell.
The right to an away tie at Sunderland was in doubt throughout on a pitch which was heavy from overnight rain; the two sides had fought out two close league matches and both sides had periods of dominance during this encounter.
It was the visitors who started the sharper with Gemma Ritchie and Cassie Thorp on the wings able to make good progress and putting in dangerous crosses. However, Barnet opened the scoring when a mishit clearance fell to Holly Sandow and she advanced to the edge of the area and finished with a low shot in the the corner on 24 minutes.
Barnet nearly doubled their with a long angled shot towards the top corner from Stacey Sowden which needed a fine save by Sally-Anne Thompson but it was Ritchie who levelled the scores right on half time with a great shot taken on the run from 25 yards as she chased a through ball.
Barnet were given the chance to restore their lead on 54 minutes when a challenge by Lynsey Crewe was adjudged to have been a foul and Cheryl Williams scored from the resulting penalty. During the final half hour Barnet had several chances to make their lead more comfortable, Sowden being denied twice by excellent saves and firing over an open goal on 75 minutes.
Portsmouth were still dangerous, being driven forward through the determination of Leeta Rutherford in particular but the Barnet back four of Dee Smith, Vicky Elcome, Alison Read and Miranda Hall all had fine games. The closest Pompey came to equalising was through a Ritchie corner which was curled inches beyond the far post with Cherie Rowlands beaten on 88 minutes.
Given that both teams had played one match in two months and on a surface which required a lot of pre-match work by the home club, both teams played good passing football. Both teams will legitimately hope to challenge for promotion and, for Barnet, an interesting challenge against a side in a similar position to themselves in the Northern Combination awaits next week.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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