Reds made a great start, as Ella Newman stretched to poke Captain Hannah Hewlett’s pass through to Gemma Worsfold, who slotted past goalkeeper Alina Wright and into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Unfortunately, the hosts were unable to build on their early lead and, in truth, the visitors offered little in response.
In fact, it was three minutes before the break until a ball over the top led to Efrosyni Theocharous bursting into the box but she couldn’t shake off the close attentions of Sophie Humphrey; the striker getting in between player and ball, then playing out from the back.
Time was nearly up at the end of the opening forty-five, when Newman robbed Catia Reis Campos in the home half and set off on a run that saw her bamboozle Skipper Jeta Bytyqi and, eventually, force a good save out of Wright from at least twenty-five yards out, with Worsfold having to settle for a flag-kick on the rebound. The set-piece was taken by Newman and Keavy Price came within inches of heading home goal number two, as she glanced her effort past the back post.
Not long after the change of ends though, the shot-shy Londerners levelled the score when Worthing failed to clear their lines, allowing Shakira Waithe to hit one first time on the eighteen yard line and in off Lauren Dolbear’s right-hand upright.
Waithe had another chance moments later but her attempt lacked the power to trouble Red’s number one on this occasion.
More deadball delivery via the boot of Newman resulted in Katie Young being frustrated by the Blue’s backline, as the match entered its final quarter.
Chloe Lelliott nicked possession away from Theocharous to present Young with a sight of goal a long way out, which the tall defender sliced wide, until stoppage time provided the crowd with a succession of “oohs “ and “ahhs” as the home side came desperately close to winning the tie inside the regulation ninety
One again, Young was at the centre of it all by drilling in a low free-kick, around twenty yards from the target that smacked against the post. New signing Becs Bell, fresh off the bench saw her follow-up well saved by Wright before her teammates scrambled the ball clear, with Humphrey cutting a frustrated figure as she was kept out too.
Rumours began to circulate that Hounslow’s left-hand upright, along with the match ball contained magnets, with the same piece of apparatus being hit again two minutes later.
This time it came after Wright had pulled off yet another impressive stop, one-handed now, to stop Young nodding in Humphrey’s corner and the woodwork denied our second replacement, also not long out of the dugout, with Lucy Apps taking her turn in cursing the frame of the goal.
A near-identical flag-kick found it’s intended target again as added time continued to provide more drama. Humphrey’s accuracy not quite matched by Young as she was unable to keep her header down.
Alas, the teams still couldn’t be separated and an additional health-an-hour was required.
Not that much changed to begin with, as Young took aim from distance, only to see her effort land on top of the net.
However, the National League guests threatened to steal victory when sub Sophie Hudson had a go from twenty yards but failed to make a clean contact on the ball and it sailed harmlessly wide.
Mara De Luca then headed marginally the wrong side of the back stick, although Worthing soon wrestled back control thanks to the persistence of Humphrey in winning possession and scooting down the right wing. Her low delivery was met by Bell who suffered the same fate as Hudson a short while earlier and she too couldn’t properly get hold of her attempt.
A rare error from Dolbear saw the ‘keeper come out for a corner that she missed, to gift Jessica Watkins an opening that was blocked by a red shirt and everyone’s palpitations could drop a level or two.
Waithe and De Luca both went for a header that beat the bar, before the former looked certain to break home hearts as she was played right through the middle. Thankfully though Dolbear returned to her normal, reliable self by staying on her feet and thrusting out her right leg to divert the danger.
Typically, it then looked like the Reds were going to emerge victorious with a late, late winner.
Just four minutes were left on the clock as Young spread the ball out to debutant number two Molly Thorns, on for Sara Tubby, who’s left flank cross was missed by millimetres, despite Worsfold drawing on her inner Inspector Gadget to try and get her dome to it.
In the end, penalties would have to be the answer and with the Blues confidently scoring their first four spot-kicks, it fell to the recently introduced Kelly Newton and the unfortunate Humphrey to be the ones that missed – thanks to Wright – and the FA Cup dream ended in a cruel defeat.