Hepworth entertained high flying Blackburn Community Women FC in the First Qualifying Round of the SSE Womens FA Cup, the visitors who are looking to gain promotion back up to the National League this season fielding a strong side including ex Hepworth player Sophie Williams who came back to haunt one of her former clubs. Hepworth who were without many of their squad for various reasons such as injury, work and other commitments managed to just scrape 12 fit players together and had many playing together foor the first time in unfamiliar positions new it would be a hard task but gave a good account for themselves in a game of two halves. Blackburn playing down the slope in the first half came out strong looking to steam roller Hepworth who were forced to work hard and that they did. Harper in ngoal was called upon several times to keep her team in the match early on and gradually Hepworth rode the strom and looked like they would frustrate the visitors as they gained in confidence. Then an absolute fluke goal broke Hepworths determination as Harper raced out of goal to clear the ball before the Blackburn striker latched on to a long punt. Harper won the race biut her clearance struck the back of the striker as she through herself in the way and the ball looped up and over Harper and into the net just as Hepworth were getting into the game. This had Hepworth rattled and two minutes later they conceeded a second as Blackburn beat the offside trap and went 0-2 up. A great strike on 25 minutes saw the lead increase again and the home side were now all at sea as the very quick and fit Blackburn side stepped up the pace. On 30 minutes an umarked player was allowed to run through unchallenged and it was 0-4. As Blackburn pushed on Hepworth tried to play football and stepped up the pace themselves forcing Blackburn to go route one. From a corner on 39 minutes the ball was struck and curled straight into the net deceiving everyone then just before halftime a long punt forward saw the striker challenge Harper who misjudged the bounce and an easy tap in after rounding the keeper saw Blackburn with a 0-6 lead which was a little harsh on Hepworth who had tried to play football passing and moving and working hard, paige Green was again outstanding in defence as was Ophelia Donlon but all topo often Hepworth were just a tad off the pace as Blacburn proved to be a quality side.
changing formation for the second half and playing down the slope Hepworth swapped Lisa Parry for Kate Govan and went 3-5-1-1 and from the kick off went on the attack. Captain Jo Forrest hitting home from 25yards out with a great strike with only 30 seconds of the second half on the clock, blackburn looked stunned and suddenly it was backs to the wall for them as Hepworth worked hard and played some good football. It was now Blackburn who had to defend as Hepworth passed the ball about from defence to attack causing Blackburn to dig in. The re shaped team worked well in defence as Donlon, kellagher and Green worked well when caughtnon the counter attack which is what Blackburn were forced to do as hepworth controlled the pace for long periods. The midfield of Brown, Forrest, Prebrezova, Antonio,Govan and Feherova were outstanding in both defence and attack playing some good flowing football going forward and tracking backmwell in defence. Up top emily wright was exceptional chasing and closing down and wa unlucky not to score herself as she caused panic in the visitors defence. All Hepworth needed was just that little bit of luck in front of goal as Blackburn werte all over the place for long periods. On a rare forrage forward a fierce shot wa unfortunately parried into her own net at the near post on 70 minutes as Blackburn relieved the pressure to make it 1-7. hepworth went close on several occasions but could not just force the ball home. Blackburn scored theior eigth goal with an unstoppable strike on 81 minutes which smashed in off the bar from 25 yards at lightening speed. It was Hepworth who still finished the stronger though and kim Antonio went close from a free kick on 87 minutes shjooting narrowly wide. All in all there can be no complaints Hepworth with a much depleted squad gave a great account of themselves and should have had more to show for their second half effort alone, but it is blackbutn whomgomthrough to play Hartlepool away in the 2nd qualifying round. The whole team can be proud of their effort today and they will have surely won many people over who had turned up for the first time to see them play. Indeed there have been some very complimentary compliments passed on from some of the spectators who made their first visit to watch the ladies.
The player of the match award was a close run affair as Rebecca Harper just pipped Laura Brown, Paige Green, Kim Antonio and Emily Wright to the accolade.