Hampstead through to women's football final
Hampstead Women pulled off a major cup upset after beating Haringey Borough to land a mouth-watering tie against Spurs in the next round of the Women’s Senior London FA Cup.
Playing host to Haringey team four divisions above them in the Women’s Pyramid system, and just two outside of the Premier League, Hampstead, who sent nine of last season’s squad to Israel for the Maccabiah Games Team GB Women’s Open competition, were looking to maintain their winning start that has seen them win all four of their league games and scoring 20 goals in the process.
Nobody truly believed they could match their opponents on the pitch however. Despite the doubters, they approached the game with a quiet confidence. And indeed it was Hampstead who got out of the blocks first with Val Toro through on goal in the first minute, only to see her left foot shot hit the side-netting.
HWFC continued to press and the unknowing bystander could have easily believed it were they, and not their rivals, who play just outside of the Premier League.
Hampstead forged ahead on 32 minutes when Rhi Gladman’s 30-yard free-kick smashed against the bar, forcing the panicking Haringey defenders to scramble the ball out for a corner.
Gladman whipped in the proceeding corner on to the head of Zena Coffey, allowing Char Blackmore to add the finishing touch to put the team from NW3 into a shock lead.
Haringey were clearly shaken, and struggled to get past Hampstead’s well organised defence, with inspirational skipper Ellie Bard proving a rock in the holding role.
Half time came and went and the possession was all Hampstead’s. Lia Larson spurned a golden opportunity minutes after the restart but missed the target with the goal at her mercy.
And so it continued with Hampstead failing to take a number of clear-cut chances, and eventually suffering the consequences of their poor finishing. Against the run of play, on 75 minutes, a wonderful piece of skill from the County League team saw their left winger dribble past three Hampstead players to slot the ball into the back of the net from an acute angle.
HWFC did not drop their heads however and continued to have a plethora of chances to seal the game, with Coffey and Arnold both putting wide from close range.
The full time whistle blew, and after the break, as the teams battled thorough extra time, Hampstead’s fitness began to shine through.
Despite this, and again against the run of play, Haringey managed to put their forward clean through on goal, but Hampstead keeper Laura Mifsud made a top-class save to flick the ball just outside the post.
As the dying seconds of the game approached both teams were preparing for penalties, until ex-QPR defender Mo Gray picked the ball up deep in the HWFC half. With great vision she picked out Toro on the left wing, and this time Hampstead’s top scorer made sure. With a flick of her boot, the classy Italian ghosted past her marker, raced down the left-hand side and dinked the most exquisite of lobs over the onrushing keeper and into the net. The Hampstead faithful went berserk in celebration.
There was just time for the restart before the final whistle came and Hampstead secured an historic victory.
HWFC manager John Baker said: “I am so proud of the girls. There is such a tremendous team spirit at the club. The girls are truly playing for each other here. They are playing beautiful, fast and dynamic passing football, at a level well beyond our league ranking suggests possible. But this is exactly why they say that the cup brings such romance.
“It’s a chance for the little team to prove themselves on the big stage, and that’s exactly what we’ve done here today. Our Head Coach, Ian Gannon needs to take a lot of the credit however. There are only a few women’s clubs in the entire country that can boast an UEFA-A pro-licence coach, and we are tremendously lucky to have him here.”
Hampstead will now host the mighty Tottenham Hotspur in the next round of the cup on January 17 at Hampstead Heath Extension, and are now only one game from playing nine times Premiership Champions, and UEFA Cup winners Arsenal, in the following round.
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HWFC: Mifsud, Roberts, Coffey, Gray, Trigg, Bard (capt), Gladman, Freeman (sub: Wragg), Blackmore, Larson (sub: Arnold), Toro. Unused sub: Forbes
HWFC Goals: Blackmore (’33), Toro (119)
MS Dentistry Girl of the Game: Zena Coffey