Report by Gareth Nicholas
Shorn of the talents of Charlie Carter and Katie Cooper, Manager John Donoghue utilised the services of his trusted Assistant Kelly Newton amongst the substitutes, who included Niamh Andersson as one of their number. Leading to call-ups off the bench for Sophie Humphrey and Chloe Lelliott in relation to the side that battled to a point at Millwall last Sunday.
It was the visitors who started on the front foot and carved out the game’s first real opportunity after seven minutes. Great work in the middle by Hayley Bridge eventually saw her spread the ball out to Rachel Palmer on the left, only for Fulham goalkeeper Edie Kelly to grab the subsequent cross a millisecond before Captain Gemma Worsfold could benefit from it.
In response, an equally fine run by Helen Ogle went unrewarded before Georgia Tibble’s defected shot fell kindly for the in-form Chloe Winchester to drive a low delivery back into the danger zone that was cleared to safety.
Excellent hold-up play by ‘Winch’, preceded by a quickly taken Bridge throw, created an opening for Tibble that flashed wide from the edge of the eighteen yard box, as the visitors began to turn up the heat.
Half-time was looming fairly large on the horizon when Becs Bell tricked her way past a pair of white shirts, leading to Skipper Mary Southgate upending Humphrey for a stonewall penalty.
Our very own ’Skip’ Gem stepped up to confidently put the travelling team in front from twelve yards, leaving Kelly rooted to the spot.
A few short minutes later and the advantage doubled, thanks to Tibble, reverting to her old boots and adjusting her body impressively to dispatch a deflected right wing cross via Bell that very nearly went in itself. Securing membership of the Double-Figures Club in the process.
Worsfold might have made it three heading into the break but fired a shade too close to ‘keeper Kelly, on the end of a perfect pass that went from centre circle to inside-right channel, courtesy of Palmer.
The Cottagers made two changes during the interval, while their Management conducted their midway point debrief on the pitch.
During which time the West Sussex contingent, who were enjoying a two-goal lead in between the change of ends, sought the sanctity of a warm – and more private – dressing room.
However, it was the Women in White who were quicker out of the blocks at the resumption, as they swarmed all over their guests, with Georgia Heasman slipping in Ogle for her ninth goal of the season. One behind her teammate and the newly introduced Ede Buchele.
The onslaught continued when a counter-attack led to the aforementioned Buchele breaking on halfway and seeing her initial, byline delivery diverted behind for a corner by a sliding Palmer.
Worthing weathered the storm though and Ellie Russell soon had her head in her hands as Kelly held the ball in hers, once ER had nodded a flag-kick that Tibble took and sent to the far post.
A fraction shy of the hour mark Buchele, frustrated at first by a defensive block, watched her second attempt draw a fine one-handed save out of Lauren Dolbear diving low to her right.
Pausing for breath ceased being an option for a spell as Katie Young, near to the right-hand touchline, picked out Humphrey marginally inside the penalty area, slightly left of centre. ‘Soph’ simply finding the gloves of Kelly on this occasion.
Less than a further sixty seconds elapsed before Dolbear was called into action up the other end, to tip a threatening Buchele effort round the near upright.
Although a double delivery of flag-kicks failed to produce anything more, a little over a quarter of the contest remained when Heasman, not for the first time, got down the right to locate an unmarked Lois Konan to drill past the left-hand stick, a tad outside the eighteen yard area.
The Young/Humphrey partnership then came close to bearing fruit again, only for the Reds’ number nine to lift a touch too high, quite well placed.
Into the final five and Andersson created room for an effort that Kelly got behind while Palmer might have put the game to bed thirty-five yards out; the palpable relief of Fulham’s netminder felt around large parts of Motspur Park as the ball whistled – I name that tune in three – a hair’s breadth above the top corner.
Although, the whole complexion of the tie looked like it was about to change, in the ninety-fourth minute of an absorbing second forty-five.
Goalscorer Ogle so nearly turned provider in releasing the recently reintroduced Summer Roberts through the inside-left channel but, cries of “Flash ! A-ah !” suddenly rang out from the healthy ensemble of away support as Gordon, sorry I mean Niamh rode to the rescue like a bolt of lightning, timing her tackle impeccably and ensuring that it would be the Seasiders surging into an Easter Day Final against this coming Sunday’s next league opponents, Dartford.