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West Ham Utd 4 Norwich City 1
West Ham Utd progressed into the Third Round of the FA Women's Cup at the expense of South East Combination Norwich City at Thurrock, recording a 4-1 victory which was less comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
The Canaries were the better team for the first quarter of the game, hit the woodwork three times and generally competed well, but conceded twice whilst dominating the match through a penalty and an own goal.
The extra class and experience in the Hammers line up proved to be the crucial difference between the teams, with Gemma Shepherd scoring twice, Emma Thomas and Nina Downham combining effectively and Toni-Anne Wayne making fine saves at key moments.
Norwich started with real purpose, carving out three good chances in the first fifteen minutes. Jodie Drake shot wide from close in on three minutes, Paige Shorten fired a 20-yarder which clipped the upright and Chelsea Garrett had a shot saved by Wayne. West Ham were even luckier not to concede after a fine run by Nikita Morris was halted illegally on the edge of the area. Shorten's free kick was deflected, hit the bar and bounced down to Garrett, whose shot was blocked on the line and scrambled away on 25 minutes.
Ironically, the Hammers scored with their first meaningful attack a minute later as a clumsy challenge after a half cleared corner was sanctioned with a penalty which Shepherd converted. Things got worse for the Canaries when a throw out by Holly Clarke was intercepted by Downham, who set up Shepherd for a neat finish on 36 minutes/ The home team were paying with a lot more fluency by now and Natalie Grafton sent a good effort just over just before the break.
Norwich needed to restart well and get an early foothold in the contest. This was achieved when the impressive Shorten burst clear of the defence, shot against the post, saw a second effort well saved by Wayne before Drake finally drove in the loose ball to halve the deficit on 59 minutes. Garrett had already had a fierce cross shot well saved as the Canaries battled back effectively.
West Ham were still dangerous, however: Clark made a fine save from sub Becky Merritt while Anna Larkins and Hayley Peverley made excellent last ditch tackles to foil the Hammers attack.
With the outcome still in the balance on 73 minutes, Canaries skipper Kate Parsons dived to head a dangerous cross past her own keeper to restore West Ham's two-goal advantage, an unfortunate moment for a player who had a fine match at the heart of the City defence. Hard as the Canaries tried to fight back, it was the Hammers who finished stronger, Merritt going close again before sub Jonna Kykkonen lofted a fine 20-yard shot over Clarke on 90 minutes to give a somewhat flattering scoreline for the home team.
West Ham had got better as the match went on, the contest being a good warm up for the upcoming League Cup quarter final at Leicester City and their ongoing promotion campaign. Just like their male counterparts, Norwich City can now concentrate on trying to gain promotion to the Premier League after an FA Women's Cup exit.
West Ham United: Toni-Anne Wayne, Ruby Southgate, Jess Barling, Natalie Grafton, Rosey Sullivan, Carly Roache, Emma Thomas, Gemma Shepherd, Tracey Duxbury, Nina Downham, Stacey Little. Subs: Joann Wasalho, Becky Merritt, Jonna Kykkonen.
Norwich City: Holly Clarke, Anna Larkins, Hayley Peverley, Nikita Morris, Kate Parsons, Laura Thacker, Sophie Gillett, Charlie Branch, Chelsea Garrett, Jodie Drake, Paige Shorten. Subs: Jordan Arnoup, Kirstie Kindred, Bex Burton, Emma Fletcher.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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