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Sawbridgeworth Town defied the Eastern Region League tables to take their place in the First Round of the F.A.Women's Cup for the first time in their history by beating Braintree Town 3-0 on their own Cressing Road pitch.
The visitors, from Division One South, deserved their win over their Premier Division hosts with an outstanding team display in which they absorbed a lot of pressure but always threatened on the break.
Sawbridgeworth scored twice in the first half and a crucial third with twenty minutes left. Braintree stepped up their game late in the second half and went very close to pulling a goal back in the last fifteen minutes with numerous shots and crosses but the visitors defence and keeper stood firm to the end.
Although Braintree went close early on with a dipping free kick, it was Sawbridgeworth who took the lead on thirteen minutes when Hayley Graham turned in a poor clearance from a corner. Playing an impressive brand of passing football, the visitors were denied by a fine Hannah Streetley save from Laura Pepper.
Back came Braintree, having a goal disallowed for a foul on visiting keeper Samantha Lowes, who later made a very brave block to deny Paula Drane. Home forward Ella Tooley went close as well but Sawbridgeworth broke away to double their lead when Hannah Mead challenged Streetley to a through ball which bounced goalwards to be tucked away by Pepper on 36 minutes.
Braintree continued to press forward but were contained by the Sawbo back four to preserve a two-goal margin at half time.
Braintree needed to impose themselves after the break and nearly got back into the game when a low shot from the edge of the area was well saved by Lowes at her near post.
The importance of this save was emphasised when Pepper extended the lead twenty minutes from time with excellent persistence, after her initial shot was blocked, to drive in the third goal in from ten yards.
Braintree used all three substitutes in order to increase their attacking options and laid siege to the visitors' goal. Lynsey Bowman, on the Braintree left, had been dangerous all game and she hit the underside of the bar on 82 minutes and shot just wide moments later. One goal back could have heralded an epic recovery but it never came despite all the hard work of the home forwards.
Sawbridgeworth had given a superb display. Their forwards were excellent targets, mobile and tricky throughout, the back four and keeper were brave and decisive but one player stood out, Jacqueline Stott, who controlled the midfield with excellent passing and tackling as well as set piece delivery. Braintree worked very hard but rarely broke their opponents down and will have to concentrate on building on their four successive promotions and a good start in the league.
Braintree Town: Hannah Streetley, Sindy Godbold, Dani Croxford, Jodie Osbourne, Amy Evans, Linsey Warren, Aimee Drane, Ella Tooley, Paula Drane, Zoe Rushen, Lynsey Bowman. Subs: Georgia Copsey, Cathryn Lawley, Lucy Stuchfield, Chloe Argent, Helena Golding.
Sawbridgeworth Town: Samantha Lowes, Nicky Clifford, Jackie Day, Ann Anstey, Jacqueline Stott, Rebecca Maybury, Joanne Gregory, Laura Pepper, Hayley Graham, Laura Westcott, Hannah Mead. Subs: Kerry Crump, Hayley King, Caroline Brown, Victoria Silvester.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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