Hemel Hempstead Town Ladies pulled off a shock 2-1 home win against Bedford Ladies – who play three divisions higher – in the FA Cup Second Qualifying round.
Just two seasons ago Bedford promoted to the FA Women’s Premier League Division 1, the second tier of the women’s pyramid.
Victory came despite manager Paul Toms’ decision to step down from his role just 72 hours before the match was played.
And in an ironic twist Hemel have drawn Herne Bay at home in the next round - the same opponents the men’s side faced this weekend!
Laura Gover spurned the first clear chance in the fifth minute, after being put through, then right winger Natasha McConville just flashed one past the right hand post.
In the 11th minute Kerry Stratton brought a fine full length save from visiting keeper Sarah Ridley, which resulted in a corner. The corner was then cleared. Kerry then hit a shot just over the crossbar while Bedford’s Kaiyn Glynn was put through, but she shot into the right hand side netting.
Sarah Ridley was yellow carded as she handled the ball from outside the area but re-gathered her composure to save the resultant free-kick.
In the 27th minute Hemel Ladies were ahead. Leah Haley, coolly slotted the ball into the bottom left hand side of the net.
Bedford substituted forward Chelcie Alleyne for fellow forward Maya Sidhu three minutes later. Sidhu then set about to terrorise the Hemel defence for the rest of the match.
Cassey Crowsley went into the referee’s notebook for taking out a Bedford forward close to the penalty are on her right hand side. Hemel keeper Ruth Gorin then smothered the resultant free-kick.
The second half started slowly and the first noteworthy action did not arrive until the 51st minute. Sidhu shot over the bar when well placed to score. Nine more minutes past before Hemel Ladies skipper Stephanie Cripps’ cross shot was saved.
Natasha McConville latched onto a free kick by Stephanie Cripps and her shot hit the crossbar. With the match now a game of ‘cut and thrust’ Bedford’s Priya Bhatti’s snapshot was well saved by Gorin.
This inspired Natasha, on the right wing, some 25 yards from the visiting goal, to smash a shot onto the top left hand corner, to double the home lead, i
In the 64th minute acting manager Lionel Davey sent on Amy Shaw for Tara Hancock. Then in the 72nd minute Lauren Cotterell replaced Tabitha Everett for the visitors. This had an immediate effect, as a minute later Cyeanne Eaton pulled a goal back for the visitors, when put through on the left wing.
It was now going to be a tense finish, as the visitors piled forward in the remaining time.
This left gaps in the Bedford defence as Laura Gover, shot over in the 77th minute. Three minutes later Eaton became the third person in the referee’s notebook, kicking the ball away from a throw-in that did not go her way.
Substitute Amy Smart then spurned chances in the 86th and 87th minutes for Hemel, as they ran down the clock in the final minutes.
Bedford then attacked again a minute later, when the ball was crossed in from the right wing, to just miss the diving header of visiting forward. Then Bedford’s Joanne Makin shoots over when it was easier to score.
As the match went into seven minutes of added time Laura Gover went close twice. Then in the 97th minute a Bedford Ccrner is headed over. The referee, after two more additional stoppages in added time finally brings the half to a close after 54 minutes.
The acting manager Lionel Davey was thrilled with the way that the Hemel Ladies went about their game to bring this well deserved victory against a side three divisions higher than them.
The draw for the 3rd Qualifying Round of SSE sponsored Women’s FA Cup will be drawn on lunchtime Monday 19th September.