Harlow Town Ladies faced their first defeat of the Challenge Cup and fell 3-points behind Bedford as they faced defeat in Bedfordshire.
Although the Hawks dominated much of the possession, it was Bedford who struck late twice to seal the three points and top Group B, with one-game to play.
Both sides made a good start to the match as they looked to strike early, but neither side threatened the opposition goal. Georgia Box and Olivia Steele looked to be played through a couple of times in the opening few minutes but couldn’t make the most of their chances while Amy Nash came the closest to scoring in the opening 10-minutes as she fired a free-kick goal-bound from the edge of the box, but it was well blocked.
The Hawks had more of a foothold in the game as they began to move the ball across the pitch. Nash found herself in a good position down the right-hand side, but the ball was out for a corner as she tried to square it. Nothing came from the resulting corner, but Ellie Manning looked to get her head to a cross a couple of minutes later, but the defender managed to clear the ball.
Chloe Bassett made a good run down the left-hand side and broke through the defensive line, but her cross was comfortably caught by the keeper. Bedford looked to make the most of an open-goal as a shot was fired from distance, but the effort was wide of the target and Sarah Walker was able to clear the loose ball. Minutes later, they had another opportunity, but the shot bounced just over the bar.
Bassett was causing all sorts of problems for the defence and looked to create space on the edge of the box but was forced to pass it off to Laura Mills, whose shot from a tight angle was just wide of the target.
The deadlock was broken in the 36th-minute as Bedford took the lead. The ball fell to the in the box, allowing her to volley the ball into the back of the net. A minute later, the hosts were almost in again and in a similar position, but the number 11’s effort was just wide. The Hawks looked to find an equaliser right before the half-time break as Nash took a corner quickly. She received the ball back from Bassett and crossed the ball into the box, but Hannah Porter couldn’t get the right contact with a header.
It was the hosts who made the best start to the second half as the number 7 looked to be played through but her shot on goal was inches wide. A minute later though, Laura Mills had a great opportunity to level the game as she fired a powerful shot towards goal but the shot was matched by the save and no one was able to follow it in.
The 7 had a second opportunity early in the second half, finding herself in a similar position to the first, but again, she couldn’t find the target and fired her shot over the bar. Despite making a slow start to the second half, the Hawks began to dominate again as they upped the pressure. There were shouts for a penalty as Box was brought down on the edge of the area, but the referee waved the shouts away before the Hawks were awarded a spot-kick a minute later as Lindsey Morgan was brought down. Bassett stepped up and tucked the ball in the corner to bring the Hawks level.
Bassett continued to work hard and did brilliantly to keep a ball in play on the left-hand side but her cross was comfortably caught by the keeper. Mills also had a good chance as she fired a shot towards the far post, but her effort was just wide and Morgan wasn’t close enough to poke home.
As the game approached the last 10-minutes, Bedford forced a sucker-punch as they took the lead in the 78th-minute. The Hawks failed to clear the ball with the hosts pouncing and sending the ball beyond Walker. A minute earlier, Bedford had fired a shot over the bar.
Despite finding themselves 2-1 down, the Hawks looked to find another equlaiser. Amy Drew created some space on the edge of the box and fired a shot towards the top-corner, but the Bedford keeper pulled off a great save to deny the midfielder, before a shot from Mills was tipped around the post. Right at the end of normal time, the Hawks had a couple of good opportunities as they sought the leveller; a shot from Box was wide of the target before Steele headed a ball that was up in the air, but her effort was also wide of the goal.
In added time, Morgan and Manning looked to both go up for a header from a corner but the effort was inches wide of the target before Bedford hit the Hawks with another sucker-punch goal. A shot from the number 15 had bounces off the top of the crossbar. From the resulting goal-kick, the hosts pounced on a loose pass and slotted the ball beyond Walker to settled the tie.
Photo: Lewis Murphy (@lewis_murphy15)