Charlie Carter came in for Lucy Apps, in the only change to the side that started the win over Dulwich Hamlet a fortnight ago. Illness accounted for Becky Simmons’ absence as Apps effectively took her place on the bench.
A much more even contest unfolded at a Sunny but windswept Robert Parker Stadium.
Although it wasn’t until twenty-four minutes in that the first serious chance of the afternoon was created, when Keavy Price fouled Lavana Neufville on the left edge of the ‘d’ to concede a free-kick. Captain and set-piece taker Alissa Down struck the woodwork, with her shot coming back off Lauren Dolbear’s left-hand post and eventually ending up over the line, after being partially cleared, only for the near-side assistant to raise his flag for offside and rule the ‘goal’ out.
Shortly afterwards, a set-piece of their own led to the visitors going in front.
Approaching the half-hour mark, a left wing free-kick, awarded following Neufville, ironically clattering into Sophie Humphrey, saw Ella Newman send an inch-perfect delivery towards a clutch of incoming bue shirts at the far post. Gemma Worsfold spearheaded the charge to divert the ball back across goalkeeper Sophie Shults and nestle it in the opposite side of the net.
Neufville almost made immediate amends for her part in the Ash Trees going behind but Charlie Carter blocked her effort in the penalty area, as the hosts threatened an instant comeback.
Well worth their lead, Newman carved out an opportunity to double it, shortly before the break.
Chloe Lelliott carried possession from right to left; allowing the wing-back to return inside and fire goalwards, dipping a long-range attempt just over the crossbar twenty yards out.
The teams nearly went in at half-time all square again, although it required a combination of Dolbear and, this time the far-side assistant to frustrate the hosts.
Down’s corner was met by the head of Ashley Cheatley and parried point-blank by Worthing’s number one, with the laws of the game once more ruling out a home strike.
Kalani Peart also suffered the frustration of being unable to get the better of the guests’ last line of defence in stoppage time, when Dolbear did well to hold on to her deflected shot under a bombardment.
Two openings in two minutes in the early stages of the second forty-five almost proved decisive for the side from Sussex.
Firstly, Becs Bell used her great pace to cut inside earlier substitute Alice Frise on the right and get into the penalty area, before Shuls beat away her tight-angled attempt.
Then, the respective nineteens clashed right on the edge of the ‘d’ as Millie Maggioni – on at the same time as Frise – was penalised for instigating the fall of opposite number Humphrey. Katie Young stepping up and hammering a typical goalbound howitzer that Newman couldn’t quite control on the rebound.
Town enjoyed a sustained period of pressure around the hour and Dolbear had to be alert to turn aside a Down free-kick, in hugely impressive fashion, at the expense of a flag-kick.
That pressure rapidly paid off as replacement Ruby Linton crashed a header against the crossbar for Neufville to pounce on and restore the equilibrium.
However, the status quo lasted a mere six minutes, thanks to the away team closing down and applying their own pressure to force a mistake out of the Tangerines’ rearguard. Bell the grateful recipient as she calmly slotted home past the despairing dive of Shults to accept the gift.
Bell’s pace caused further problems moments later, when she left both Ellen Clarabut and Jordanne Hoesli-Atkins trailing in her wake, before firing over cross that reached Emily Linscer. Only for the defender turned midfielder to suffer an unfortunate mishit at the point of contact.
Ashford retaliated once more but, ultimately, a blocked effort by Linton proved to be the closest they would come.
The tightest of margins meant that Peart was agonisingly close to taking the tie to extra time, when her byline ball across the face of goal missed the far upright by millimeters but the underdogs, deservedly, had their day.