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Havant & Waterlooville were victorious in the biggest match in their short history, winning 2-1 at Premier League Cardiff City's International Athletics Stadium in the Third Round of the F.A.Women's Cup.
The South West Combination side snatched victory with an injury time Charley Wilson goal as the Hawks came from behind to seal an away tie against Doncaster Rovers Belles in the Fourth Round.
The victory was reward for a battling performance in which every Hawks player gave their all, playing with calm confidence in defence and for long periods of the match were able to frustrate the home side's attack and mount dangerous raids on the Welsh team's goal.
Cardiff's biggest threat came through the set piece deliveries of Natasha Harding, who was outstanding throughout, but the underdogs, although often under pressure, were never outplayed.
Both sides went close in the early minutes, Zoe Atkins bursting through to shoot just wide for Cardiff and Wilson driving a shot across the face of Rhian Nokes' goal a minute later. Sadie Blakely saved well from a Harding corner and Laura Oakes made a brave headed clearance from another at the cost of lengthy treatment for a knock on 21 minutes. Sophie Ingle matched Harding's set piece delivery by landing a 30-yard free kick on the roof of the net with Blakely beaten.
Inevitably, the home team's lead came from Harding placing a perfect corner on Terri Beddows' head, whose powerful contact beat both Blakeley and a defender on the line on 34 minutes However, it took Hawks just six minutes to secure a spectacular equaliser. Wilson, whose control and intelligent movement troubled Cardiff throughout, earned a free kick 25 yards out and Lizzie Laws stepped up to measure a perfect shot over the wall and past Nokes.
After the break, Cardiff stepped up the pace to press the Hawks back. Danielle Broadhurst went close from distance and, although Nokes made a fine save from substitute Chloe Ranger on 49 minutes, it was Cardiff sub Lisa Bird who twice went close to restoring their lead and Marie Barrow shot narrowly over before the hour mark.
Hawks were defending calmly as Cardiff pressed but they could do little on 70 minutes as Harding glided a header just over the bar. The same player broke clear shortly afterwards and was denied by a good Blakely save at the near post.
Back came Hawks and a Laws corner was palmed on to the bar by Nokes, leading to a huge goalline scramble before Cardiff could clear. The match appeared to be headed for extra time as Cardiff pressed and the Hawks defended really well.
This in itself would have been a great achievement for the Combination newcomers against a team with several Welsh internationals but the match had a dramatic finish. Wilson, from six yards, was able to instinctively toe poke a ball which had rebounded from a blocked clearance and the ball trickled past Nokes' despairing dive and nestled in the corner of the net in the third minute of injury time.
There was still time for the home side to pour forward and win a free kick 30 yards out. The vicious shot was too hot for Blakely to hold and it was Laws, who was excellent throughout, who sealed the Hawks' victory with a goalline clearance.
Cardiff will be disappointed to have failed to take chances but Havant & Waterlooville played with big hearts and cool heads all through the match and every squad member played their part in a famous victory which recalled the Cup exploits of the Hawks men's team, with whom they enjoy close links, in the recent past. Hawks Ladies have only been in existence for four seasons and are chasing promotion to the Premier League, but have a date with Doncaster Rovers Belles, the longest established club in the Cup, to savour first.
Cardiff City: Rhian Nokes, Ellie Davies, Lauren Townsend, Terri Beddows, Sophie Ingle, Charlotte Miller, Natasha Harding, Nicola Cousins, Danielle Broadhurst, Marie Barrow, Zoe Atkins. Subs: Rachel Cullen, Lisa Bird, Ellie Smith, Amie Lea.
Havant & Waterlooville: Sadie Blakely, Charlotte Brown, Lauren Cheshire, Lizzie Laws, Sabrina Morriss, Laura Oakes, Jenna Fowlie, Jodie Prince, Jenna Dunster, Charley Wilson, Leeta Rutherford. Subs: Stacie Murray, Sam Stone, Chloe Ranger, Chantelle Clark, Yzzy Taylor.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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