Report: The Girls Don Good

Worthing were moments away from a magnificent victory, only to suffer the cruellest of fates through two stoppage time goals by MK Dons.

Womens Full Time
3
MK Dons
  • Rush (29')
  • Pepper (90')
  • Miceli (92')
2
Worthing
  • Bridge (31')
  • Humphrey (45')
Women's FA Cup Sunday 27th November, 2022

Boss John Donoghue made just two changes to the team that won at Enfield Town last time out, with Rachel Palmer and Niamh Andersson both returning in place of Charlie Carter and Chloe Winchester.

Aiming to bridge a two-division gap, the visitors made a nervous start and so it was the hosts who were first to threaten.

The pivotal figure of Nicole Pepper spread play from a central position out to Tricia Gould, on the left wing. Her low cross into the penalty area found Mollie Coupar, who laid the ball back for Rhianne Rush to blaze well wide.

Coupar then earned her side a free-kick, following a push by Chloe Lelliott, only for set-piece Queen “Pep” to launch the set-piece into orbit.

Worthing gradually worked their way into the match and Hayley Bridge had the Red’s first sight of goal.

Pouncing on a defensive error on the ‘dugout’ side of the pitch, HB was a whisker away from working Chloe Sansom in the White’s net, via a shot that narrowly whistled over the crossbar.

Two minutes later, a terrific long pass by Katie Young put Sophie Humphrey clean through the middle but Sansom was out smartly to snuff out the danger.

Arriving at the midway point of the opening period, the fit-again Palmer sent Captain Gemma Worsfold scurrying down the left flank, ending in cries of “Gem Bar, Gem Bar” as the Skipper’s effort bounced off the top of the apparatus and behind for a goal-kick.

The deadlock was finally broken a matter of seconds before the half-hour mark came round.

Unfortunately, for the travelling supporters, it went to the National League Dons, after a Coupar dead ball wasn’t properly cleared and, eventually, Rush lived up to her surname by driving an edge-of-the-box attempt through a crowd of players and burying it in the bottom corner.

However, far from being dejected, the underdogs were very much having their day when they stunned their illustrious hosts by not just levelling the scores but going in at the break, in front!

Drilling in a low ball from the left, Bridge’s delivery appeared to get a touch of a defensive leg, as Humphrey caused problems. Although there would be no crossing Bridge with Hayley delightfully and rightfully taking the plaudits and putting her name on the scoresheet.

Not to be outdone though, on the stroke of half-time, Humphrey soon added hers to it too, thanks to the sidestepping of a white shirt and the blasting of a rocket into the top corner, from the edge of the box.

MK began the following forty-five in exactly the same manner in which they had the first. Coupar heading Pepper’s corner straight into the hands of Lauren Dolbear after only a few minutes.

Don’s Player-of-the-Match Lucy Wood then intercepted a Palmer pass, only to fire the wrong side of the post twenty yards out, as the hosts continued to take the game to their guests.

It was like the Alamo at times but despite their domination, Dolbear wasn’t truly tested until the sixty-sixth minute, when she impressively tipped a Pepper piledriver from all of thirty-five yards, above the bar.

Worthing were holding on to their precious lead, with the ‘favourites’ unable to break them down.

Inside the last ten and Coupar tried her luck a long way out, only to finish a long way wide.

A promising forward foray in the dying embers saw Lelliott nick possession off Pepper to allow Worsfold to pick out Andersson on the right; Niamh nearly putting proceedings to bed via an attempt that ended in the small-sided net, next to the big one.

Sadly, all the Red’s good, no, outstanding work was undone due to an added time double.

Young was penalised for handball with not just a free-kick but also a yellow card. In spite of this, there seemed little to no risk involved, until Pepper – ? Nicole? – took aim at least thirty yards away and somehow located the opposite bottom corner.

If that wasn’t enough, goalscorer then turned provider, as a ball over the top was latched onto by substitute Leoni Miceli, who sped clear of Bridge before beating the advancing Dolbear and slotting into an empty net. Ninety-six showed on the metaphorical clock.

The drama wasn’t quite done for the day though, with there still a couple more minutes for Andersson to almost snatch a draw; reaching the right-hand touchline and watching on in agony as the ball flashed across the face of goal, before the referee blew her whistle and dreams of Wembley were put hold for another year.