Claire Jefferson was the hero of the penalty shoot-out as the West goalkeeper saved three penalties as West booked their place in the SSE FA Women’s Cup Third Qualifying Round.
West were unchanged from their 3-2 win over Warrington a fortnight ago with Debbie Price replacing Anna Carson-Parker on the bench as the only change to the squad.
It was a bright and warm day on the Fylde Coast and despite a heavy uncut pitch it was West who started on the front foot. Their first chance came after three minutes when a cross from Sophie Bracegirdle found Chaneece Reeves at the far post but the ball just evaded the outstretched boot of the West wide player. Four minutes later Bracegirdle came close again when he high ball to the far post almost caught out the Blackpool keeper Hannah Peake but just flew inches over the top of the bar.
At the other end a strong tackle from Lyndsey Turner on 12 minutes denied Louise Latham with a shot from the edge of the area. It was West who spent most of the opening stages on the attack as three minutes Reeves won the ball high up the field, playing in Captain Shauna Edmondson whose cross found Elizabeth Livesey who volleyed just wide. On 17 minutes Ellie Caddick almost caught out the Blackpool goalkeeper directly from a corner but Peake did well to dive on the loose second ball.
On 31 minutes a terrific ball down the right flank picked out Leigh McFadyen who fired a first time effort from 25 yards just across the outside of the left hand post. Six minutes later Livesey called Peake into action as her low hard effort was only stopped on the line by the Blackpool goalkeeper at the second attempt.
The home sides only other chance of the half came on 38 minutes when the West defence lost a high ball in the sun allowing Lily Hambly into the area but she rolled her effort well wide of the post. Despite West’s dominance the scores would remain level at half time.
It was the home side who created the second halves first chance on 48 minutes when Captain Lauren Oatley volleyed wide after a curled ball over the top of the defence. A minute later Livesey forced a terrific save from Peake when she powered a header at the far post from a Caddick corner but the Blackpool stopper did terrifically to push it round the post.
Blackpool took the lead on 58 minutes when they countered down the left, with an effort from a tight angle inside the penalty area came off the inside of the post and despite Lyndsey Turner’s best efforts to clear it the linesman flagged that it had crossed the line.
The lead last barely a minute as Caddick turned provider again and this time substitute Jami Hodges made no mistake volleying an effort low across the keeper into the bottom left hand corner. On 77 minutes Hodges was denied a stonewall penalty when she was tripped from behind with the referee in a perfect position only for him to wave away West’s appeals. It was West who finished the strongest with Edmondson curling a free kick over on 80 minutes before she headed just wide from Bracegridle’s drilled cross two minutes later.
Livesey saw a rocket of an effort blocked before Edmondson again headed over unmarked from a corner to ensure that West would play extra time.
In the first half of extra time West continued to search for a winning goal as Reeves headed over at the near post from a Bracegirdle corner on 95 minutes before Livesey fired over from another corner delivery three minutes later.
Lyndsey Turner would make no mistake from the next corner however as she rose highest to head home Caddick’s in-swinging effort at the near post on 100 minutes. Three minutes later Peake was called into action to make a superb save from a well struck Emily Croasdale effort.
In a game already filled with incident the second half of extra time was even more so as Hodges had a chance to put the game to bed when she raced through one-on-one only to be denied by Peake in the Blackpool goal. Blackpool levelled when a clearance fell to Charmaine Cardwell who finished first time into the bottom left hand corner from the edge of the penalty area. There was a real sense of injustice for West as they’d had not one but two players down injured in the build-up. Despite the long delay for treatment to Bracegirdle and Livesey, the latter of whom was forced off the field, the referee added on no extra time as the two teams were headed to penalties.
The home side kicked first as the first penalty was fired down the middle just out of reach from Jefferson. Edmondson stepped up and scooped West’s first penalty over the bar. Jefferson restored parity saving Blackpool’s second before Bracegirdle, despite playing all of extra time with cramp, summoned the strength to drill one into the bottom right hand corner to make it 1-1 with the second spot kick. The Blackpool captain coolly finished the home sides third before Croasdale saw her spot kick saved.
Jefferson came to West’s rescue a third time saving the fourth Blackpool spot kick before Amy Friel, an extra time substitute, stepped to place her effort into the bottom right hand corner. Jefferson duly saved Blackpool’s fifth kick before Chaneece Reeves coolly fired home the winning penalty to send West deservedly into the next round.