Manager Chris Brayford made three changes to the side who began the O’s last outing against Actonians Ladies on 7th October.
Captain Danielle Griffiths and Connie Montiel-McCann returned to the side as full backs, while Tara O’Halloran regained her starting place in midfield.
Orient got the game underway on a mild afternoon in Herne Hill, looking to progress through the competition they performed so well in last season.
However, it was a slow start from the O’s who fell behind after just six minutes. Raquel Arevalo raced on to an aerial pass before lifting the ball calmly over Naomi Ogunde to give AFC Phoenix a 1-0 lead.
Much to Orient’s credit, they were level within a minute of conceding. Hayley Barton’s cross put the ball on a plate for Sophie Le Marchand, who tucked it past Phoenix goalkeeper Louis Marie from close range to level the tie.
On 20 minutes, Orient completed the comeback when Le Marchand chipped a great pass in to Barton, who lobbed Marie and watched Fulgence pounce on the loose ball before slotting in to an empty net giving Orient a 1-2 lead.
Moments later, the O’s were awarded a penalty when Barton’s strike was adjudged to have been handled by a Phoenix defender. Griffiths stepped up and confidently swept the ball into the bottom corner putting the O’s 1-3 ahead.
Despite their two-goal advantage, the O’s looked susceptible to counter attacks and were almost punished only for Hannah Porter who crucially blocked Arevalo’s effort on the edge of the box.
On the attack, Orient were beginning to see a succession of chances fall their way. Lisa Holmback headed over from Barton’s cross, before Le Marchand was denied by the feet of Marie one-on-one.
At the break, the O’s were in a comfortable position having re-asserted their dominance on the game after the equalising goal. They could have scored more, while AFC Phoenix had looked threatening with their pace and direct approach in the wide areas.
AFC Phoenix got the second half underway, but it was Orient who began on the front foot. Barton’s cross would have fallen kindly for Porter but for a crucial touch from a Phoenix shirt, which took the ball away from the Orient centre-half at the back-post.
On the hour mark, Kasey Kelm advanced into the penalty area but failed to trouble Ogunde with an off-balance effort. Shortly after, the O’s made their first change which saw Holmback replaced by Rebecca Hirst on the left wing.
Immediately, the O’s netted a fourth goal in stunning fashion. Barton’s cross was slightly behind Fulgence at the near post, but the striker adjusted her body before audaciously flicking the ball on the volley over Marie and into the far corner for her second of the game.
With twenty minutes remaining, the O’s made their second substitution seeing new signing Camila Pescatore make her debut in place of Montiel-McCann. Instantly, Pescatore made some good runs while passing and moving with purpose.
Orient wrapped the game up with a fifth goal on 76 minutes when Fulgence completed her hat-trick. She pressurised the defender who was facing her own goal, before capitalising on their indecisiveness and slotting the ball underneath Marie to cap off a fine individual showing in front of goal.
A place in the next round was secure as Orient’s final change saw Valeria Moreno replace Barton for the final ten minutes, as Ogunde was called into action to push away a free-kick before watching Arevalo glance her header wide of the post.
AFC Phoenix were finishing the game strongly and thought they had bagged a second goal only for Katharine Nutman to deny them with a goal-line clearance. At the opposite end, Fulgence was denied further goals by the foot of the post and a superb one-handed save from Marie.
Although, the home side did manage to find a second goal with the last action of the game. Natalia Mann received the ball from the right-side, angling a left-footed shot across goal which nestled into the far corner. However, this would only be a consolation as the referee’s whistle secured Orient’s place in the next round of the competition.
Speaking after the match, hat-trick hero Lisa Fulgence assessed the team’s performance:
“I think we played really well in spells of the game. Obviously, we went 1-0 down and to be honest we probably needed it to kick us up and go again. We seem to be doing that quite a lot, we go down and then we start playing how we know we can play. We had a little spell towards the end where it was a bit scrappy, I think we worked so well throughout the game that we were tiring out, but I think we played well.”
Next, the O’s travel to face Cambridge United Women in the FA Women’s National League Cup Second Round this Sunday 28th October, after the initial fixture was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.