Despite having several regular players injured or unavailable and no substitutes, Hassocks Ladies triumphed in a penalty shoot-out against Crawley Wasps Reserves to reach the final of the South Eastern Counties League Cup.
Hassocks started brightly and saw Kate Harding’s lob over the keeper strike the bar in the 4th minute. Hassocks continued to press and following a good run by Laura Espana, her cross just failed to find Kate Harding. However, Crawley came more into the game as the half went on and defenders Emma Young, Emma Flin, Sam Newman and especially Gabby Fitzsimons, playing at centre back for the first time, had to be alert and determined to prevent Crawley having chances. Keeper Sarah Chappell also had to save after a goalmouth scramble following a corner.
In an extremely open game, the play was end to end. Layla Allan had an excellent free kick headed clear and another shot just wide before Emma Young had to defend well. Hassocks had the ball in the net in the 26th minute, but Kate Harding was adjudged offside. Shortly afterwards, good goalkeeping by Sarah Chappell to narrow the angle forced the Crawley forward to shoot over after a through ball.
The Hassocks midfield of Layla Allan, Kirsten Mair with Tallie Bright and Laura Espana out wide never let the Crawley midfield settle. Also, Katherine Chappell bravely played her part despite having a hamstring injury. Layla Allan broke through after a great pass by Kate Harding to shoot just wide. Another piece of skill by Laura Espana enabled Kirsten Mair to shoot narrowly wide before the half ended goalless.
The second half started in much the same vein. It was end to end and Gaby Fitzsimons had to be alert to cover a Crawley break. At the other end, two efforts by Kate Harding were saved and she then appeared in her own penalty area to powerfully head clear a dangerous corner. Crawley then threatened with a header just over the bar from a free kick. Again, Hassocks had the ball in the net only to be ruled offside and Crawley then broke clear to shoot wide. Great defending by Emma Young prevented a Crawley chance when they had a two on one situation.
At last in the 79th minute, the deadlock was broken, Kate Harding slotting the ball home at the far post after a great cross by Layla Allan. However, the lead was short lived. Crawley scored twice in a two minute spell to lead 2-1, the second being an unstoppable shot to the top corner. Amazingly, Hassocks overcame this disappointment to hit the bar in the 84th minute, and then equalise when a cross was deflected into the goal by a Crawley defender.
The match went into extra time. Again, it was end to end with both sides having chances but it was Crawley who went ahead 3-2 just before the break despite a great attempt to save by Sarah Chappell. Hassocks continued to fight and a thumping volley by Kate Harding found the net to equalise. Hassocks nearly won it in the 115th minute when a Kate Harding shot after a rebound was just wide.
With no further goals, the match ended 3-3 and went to penalties. Hassocks had first blood as Emma Young scored and Sarah Chappell saved Crawley’s first penalty. Then two Hassocks penalties were missed whilst Crawley scored one and missed one, making it one each after three penalties. Kate Harding then netted and Crawley scored their fourth. Tallie Bright then scored for Hassocks and the decisive Crawley penalty was brilliantly saved by Sarah Chappell to give Hassocks victory and a place in the League Cup Final.
It is impossible to single out any one player for this victory. All eleven players gave their utmost and deserve full credit for reaching the cup final.
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