Shoot out win sees Knowle through to next round
Ladies beat Leamington 4-2 on penalties in County Cup
Knowle hit the ground running in their County Cup game against Leamington, piling on early pressure and keeping a high tempo. Anna-Marie Robinson went close in the first five minutes; she wriggled past a defender and smacked a long range shot against the crossbar. The rebound didn’t quite drop for Claire Richardson following in but it was an early indicator of Knowle’s intentions. Celina Smallwood and Lucy Taylor were working well together down Knowle’s left side and Taylor had the full back beaten on a number of occasions. She created a good opportunity for Richardson, but the Leamington keeper made a fine save. Sarah Moore was also finding lots of time on the ball and picked out Knowle’s front three on numerous occasions. The Robins couldn’t break the deadlock however, with Robinson flicking one attempt straight at the keeper and Katie Smith’s excellent cross evading everyone. Leamington’s attacks were sporadic and well marshalled by the Knowle backline, Mel Faulkner winning most of the balls in the air and all three defenders staying strong in the tackle. Against the run of play however, the home side did take the lead; Knowle lost out challenging a goal kick on the halfway line and the resulting flick on gave a Leamington midfielder too much time to pick a diagonal through ball and the centre forward made no mistake with her one on one finish.
Knowle didn’t let their heads drop and continued to play good football, Rachel Keen making sure the midfield ticked over with a serious of tidy passes. Robinson collected one such ball on the far side of the penalty area and hit a low square cross into Taylor’s path but the home keeper pulled off an excellent save with her legs. The Robins got their reward when Richardson was thwarted by a last ditch tackle. Robinson bent the resulting corner into the near post and Katy Smirthwaite was on hand to flick a deft header into the net for the equaliser. There was time left in the first half for Taylor to come close again with a snap shot that went just wide, and Leamington’s forward also hit a long range effort over the bar but the teams went in for half time at one all.
The Robins also started the second half well with a flurry of attacks. The final ball wasn’t quite good enough to create a clear opportunity however, and after the initial period of pressure Leamington came into the game. They were close to going ahead when the winger cut inside and hit a firm attempt that flashed past the post. Despite the game being far more even, it was Knowle that went ahead. Keen and Smith combined to set Smallwood free on the left side; she stepped round her defender before firing a cross low across the six yard line. Richardson met the ball ahead of the goalkeeper and chipped it past her for her first goal of the season. Leamington fought back with real determination, seizing control of the midfield. They almost equalised from a corner, but the excellent Moore was positioned well to clear the ball off the line. The home side then won a penalty when Sam Smith crashed into their skipper just inside the box. The captain took the spot kick herself but Rachel Gibson flung herself to her right and made a great save with her legs.
Leamington were now on top; Charlotte Langston had to nip in and take the ball off an attacker’s toes in the box and another shot flew only inches wide. Their pressure eventually told when the left winger found acres of space out wide and her cross could only be diverted towards goal by Smith. Gibson made the save, but the rebound fell to the onrushing right winger who fired it into the roof of the net. Being back on level pegging pushed Knowle to step up again and the final fifteen minutes were an end to end affair. It looked like the Robins would go ahead again when Robinson met Taylor’s cross but the Leamington goalkeeper threw out an arm and tipped the close range effort over the bar. Gibson also made a terrific one on one save to keep the home side out. Taylor’s determination and pace had caused Leamington problems all game and she nearly snatched victory for Knowle when she drew the keeper out wide of her goal then floated a great attempt over her head from a tight angle. The Leamington centre half was alive to the danger however and headed the ball off the line under heavy pressure. The game finished 2-2 and County Cup rules meant that it was straight to penalties. Knowle held their nerve with Sam Smith, Taylor, Katie Smith and Robinson all converting their attempts in confident fashion. Gibson made a terrific save to stop Leamington’s third kick, and when the fourth was blazed over the bar, The Robins’ name was in the hat for the next round. A shame to finish a thoroughly entertaining end to end match in that way, particularly as the two unlucky Leamington players had been fantastic all game. Yet Knowle will be pleased with the performance they put in, full of effort and slick football, as well as keeping their cool in the shoot out.