By Freddie Kilbey (Harlow College Student)
It was a dramatic afternoon at the Harlow Arena as Harlow advanced through to the 1st Round Proper of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup after winning 4-2 on penalties.
Royston looked likely to score first , in the fourth minute, a shot from one of their players on the edge of the Harlow box skimmed the cross bar and went out of play. 3 minutes later, a Royston defender made a clean tackle in the Royston box to deny Georgia Raby a goal-scoring opportunity. It took 12 minutes for the deadlock to be broken as Harlow’s Georgia Raby sent a defence splitting through ball into the middle of the box where October supporter’s player of the month, Georgia Box, met the ball and shielded off defenders to quickly spin and finish past the goalkeeper to put Harlow 1-0 up. In the 17th minute, Harlow were forced in an early change as winger Raby had to be substituted after receiving contact to the face and it was decided it was not worth the risk of further injury. Therefore, she was replaced by Daisy Jenkins. Royston’s Sammy Edgar put a lovely darting ball across the danger zone of the Harlow box but Sarah Walker did well to dive and the claim the loose ball as hers.
In the 32nd minute, Nicole Farmer picked up the ball in her own half and showed that the confidence was high by skipping past the tackle of a Royston player and hit a long the ball over the top of the Royston defence where Fran Gamble was presented with a one-on-one opportunity which, with ice in her veins, she sublimely chipped the onrushing Royston goalkeeper. There was an early bit of drama on the pitch as the referee decided to penalise Sarah Walker for picking up the ball after a back pass. Despite the protests of the Harlow players, a indirect freekick for Royston was given inside the Harlow box. Fortunately for Harlow, the resulting free kick was hit straight in to the Harlow wall. Harlow’s Georgia Box came very close to her second goal of the game just before the break after she tried to go round the Royston goalkeeper Yas Walford but the keeper successfully performed a sweeper keeper role as she tackled Georgia and then dived bravely in order to collect the loose ball on the edge of the box. Right before the half time whistle, Yas Pratt was gifted with Royston’s best opportunity of the half as Kaydee King accidentally miss-kicked the ball and the Crow’s forward was unmarked at the back post and was tasked with beating Sarah walker. Her shot beat Sarah Walker but the post denied Royston their first goal. Harlow went in to half time with a two-goal lead,
Royston started the second half with all gas on the burners as they put a lot of pressure on the Harlow defence early. Harlow’s Hannah Porter denied Yas Pratt a goal-scoring opportunity in the 47th minute. Before a couple of minutes later , Hannah Porter again denied Yas Pratt a goal as Gemma Croucher broke away and cut the ball back to Yas Pratt whose shot was blocked by Porter. Harlow’s Ash Deacon charged with the ball into the Royston area ln the 51st minute before unleashing a low ball across the box but Walford dived and comfortably collected the ball. Fran Gamble collected the ball on the edge of the Royston box and used her pace to get through the middle of the Royston defenders and coolly finished the ball through the Goalkeeper’s legs to make it two spectacular goals for her in the match
In the 53rd minute, a Royston player got through one on one with Walker and superbly lifted the ball over Walker. Georgia Box was searching for her second goal of the game as a low ball came into the box from Harlow forward Olivia Steele before Georgia Box slid in and made contact with the ball but there was not enough power on the contact to take the ball past the Royston goalkeeper. Royston finally got themselves a goal in the 70th minute after a free kick was given against Harlow and Kaydee King. Paige Rolfe hit a thunderous free kick over the Harlow wall which Harlow goalkeeper Walker managed to get a hand to but the ball ended up in the bottom right corner of the goal.
Royston captain Amy cooper mis-controlled the ball and Olivia Steele decided to take on the volley, but her effort was over the bar before Olivia Steele collided with Gemma Croucher ending with Croucher receiving treatment from the physio. Royston replaced Croucher with Sydney Graham whilst Harlow freshened things up by switching Ash Deacon with Danni Jennings. A free kick was given to Royston as Tally Miles was fouled and went down to ground holding her leg in pain. Despite getting back up, Tally Miles was replaced Joely Kirby with the Royston manager changing to a 3-4-3 formation.
All momentum was with the away side and they took advantage of that as a Royston player sent a long ball into the box which fell to Yas Pratt who finished the ball with good composure past the goalkeeper with seconds to spare before the final whistle. The Game had to be settled by a penalty shoot-out.
Both teams had their hearts in their mouths as a penalty shoot-out was blocking them from the first round proper of the FA Cup. Georgia box stepped up first for Harlow but saw her penalty saved. Charlotte South and Olivia Steele both scored their penalties. Royston’s Georgia Miller was next to miss her penalty to keep it 1-1 on penalties. Royston’s Emma Slater and Harlow’s Fran Gamble and Chloe Bassett all kept calm and scored their penalties. Substitute Paige Rolfe missed her penalty to put Harlow within touching distance of the win. Kaydee King slotted home her penalty to seal the win for Harlow Town Ladies and send them through to the Vitality FA Cup first round proper.