Playing at The Crucial Environmental Stadium for the first time since the victory against Enfield Town back on 18th September, there were several changes to the side which cruised past Richmond Park in the FA Cup last week.
In came Ella Newman, Ellie Russell, Charlie Carter, the aforementioned Winchester and Katie Cooper. Leading to places in the subs’ seats for Katie Young, Hayley Bridge, Georgia Tibble, Becs Bell and Sophie Humphrey.
Appalling weather beforehand eventually gave way to bright sunshine – for a while, at least – but there was little to warm the brave and hardy supporters who had ventured out, in the opening exchanges.
Rachel Palmer’s early corner picked out Gemma Worsfold at the back post, where the option of right foot over left proved, in hindsight, to possibly be the wrong choice.
Shortly afterwards, Newman drifted in off the left wing and gave Niamh Andersson a presentable chance from distance that she struck powerfully, although narrowly over the bar.
Visiting goalkeeper Meagan Sagar was then called upon to keep out Emily Linscer, which the United number one did in fine fashion, following a delightful through ball by Russell to create the opportunity.
Finally, the net bulged thanks to Winchester, fresh from notching her maiden competitive strike for the club at Richmond, ducking to cleverly back head in a Palmer delivery a little more than half-an-hour into the contest.
Whatever someone put in the half-time oranges certainly had the desired effect, when the very newly introduced Humphrey sped down the left before putting it on a plate for Winchester to double both her and her team’s tally, by simply applying the finish.
However, the away side, who arrived at Woodside Road on the back of an impressive league record that saw them sitting in third place with six wins out of seven, showed they were clearly not going to be overawed.
A quick counter-attack led to the influential Grace Hill sending Beth Chambers racing away to the byline to fizz a low one across the face of goal. Unfortunately for the guests, there was no-one in the six-yard box to take advantage.
They made no mistake a couple of minutes later though, once Hill had outmuscled the diminutive Carter, spun and lobbed Lauren Dolbear twenty-plus yards out for a stunning coup de grace.
The entertainment factor had gone up a couple of notches since the turnaround and only the width of the crossbar stopped Humphrey from adding her name to the scoresheet, after she’d embarked on a driving run in off the left flank to test it’s strength.
Less than sixty seconds later and the host’s two-goal margin was restored, courtesy of replacement Tibble, who tucked home a Palmer pass just a few minutes into her introduction.
It looked to be game, set and match once Andersson had ridden the tackle of Mel Ferguson to send in a potential assist, that soon became one. The ball coming back out to Winchester who improvised again by using her head to nod over shot stopper Sagar for Worthing’s fourth, completing her own personal treble in the process.
Hill was enjoying an excellent afternoon and soon threatened with a twenty yarder that didn’t miss by much, as the travelling team refused to go down without a fight.
That effort was matched by the lightning-quick speed of Bell, who couldn’t be stopped on her way to eventually crossing for Humphrey to draw another good save out of Sagar, who had her palms stung not long afterwards by a Russell rocket that had been supplied by Bridge temporarily vacating her position on the right.
A little under twenty to go and a proverbial cat amongst the pigeons situation arose, when the familiar pairing of Hill and Chambers linked up to devastating effect.
The former swung a ball out to the latter to beat an excellent first touch by drilling home an Eastbourne second with an even better conclusion.
However, that simply awoke the beast and Andersson started riding the challenges prior to spanking a low attempt that had Sagar performing her own piece of improvisation; a swipe of her left foot sufficiently clearing the danger.
The same player then bent a superb pass along the right to release the galloping Bell but Becs couldn’t quite round off the move with the cherry on top, firing inches over the target.
Winchester might have had a fourth when the ball ran kindly for Worsfold to send in a teaser that Chloe got something on, though merely a glancing blow that maintained the original trajectory.
Time was almost up until Young decided it would be her that would have the final say. At least twenty-five yards stood between the tall defender and the onion bag; undeterred though Katie produced a stunning last minute lob to round off the tie very nicely indeed.