Orient progressed to the next round of the FA Women’s National League Cup after edging out Cambridge United 4-3 after extra time in a thrilling game at the Mile End Stadium on Sunday.
Goals from Michelle Young, Ellie Stenning and an Otesha Charles brace secured victory for the O’s on a hot and humid afternoon in East London.
Manager Chris Brayford made seven changes to the team that comfortably defeated Cambridge City last weekend.
‘Keeper Naomi Ogunde was called upon to make a couple of important saves early on, before Orient eventually went behind after Kelley Blanchflower managed to beat the offside trap and slot home in the ninth minute.
It didn’t take long for the much changed O’s to gel though and they were back on level terms in the 19th minute. Creative midfielder Lisa Holmback played a ball into Charles and the striker struck a powerful effort into the roof of the net, leaving Savannah Smith in the Cambridge goal with no hope of keeping it out.
Charles could have had another mid way through the first half, when full back Jasmine Auguste played a perfectly weighted ball into her path, but it wasn’t to be as Smith got down smartly to save the forward’s effort.
Orient continued to grow into the game and some nice interplay between Holmback and Francesca Ali almost resulted in a U’s defender putting the ball into her own net just before the end of the half.
Much like at the beginning of the first half, Cambridge made a strong start to the second period and they were ahead once again in the 53rd minute through Faith Hewitt, who scrambled the ball home from a corner that the O’s failed to clear.
However, Orient weren’t behind for long. As just three minutes later Young hit what’s sure to be one of the goals of the season.
The ball sat up nicely for her just outside the box and she hit a half volley with real venom to restore parity for her side in spectacular fashion.
Auguste sliding the ball down the channels for Charles was a persistent theme throughout the game and it was this combination of play that led to the home side taking the lead for the first time, when Charles slotted home from the full backs through ball in the 68th minute.
From then on the O’s started to pile on the pressure as they looked to put the result beyond any doubt. First, Ali rattled the woodwork with a long range effort, then minutes later Charles was denied a hat trick by a wonderful save from Smith.
Ultimately, Orient would be left ruing not putting the game to bed, when deep into stoppage time Mollie Coupar wriggled away from her marker and expertly placed the ball beyond Ogunde to send the tie into extra time.
The O’s, undeterred by the away side’s late equaliser, continued to mount pressure on the Cambridge goal. Ali hit the bar once again with a rasping effort shortly after the restart, before Stenning could only drag a shot wide after being played through by stand-in skipper Allison McCann.
Both teams looked understandably fatigued in the stifling heat and the tie was beginning to look like it would have to be settled by a penalty shootout. Until Orient were awarded a corner just three minutes before the allotted extra 30 were up.
The O’s packed the penalty area in search of a late winner and their courageousness was rewarded when Rebecca Hirst’s out-swinging delivery met the forehead of Stenning, who powerfully guided the ball into past Smith to seal a memorable victory for her side.
Speaking after the game, Brayford was delighted to be in the hat for the next round saying:
“The players very much deserved the victory today – we had people battling through injury and illness to play (120 minutes in the heat) and that commitment was terrific.
They were all great but I’d particularly highlight Otesha, who was superb in her first game for the club and Allison, who did a brilliant job leading the side.
We’re looking forward to testing ourselves against teams from the premier divisions in future WNL Cup rounds.”
Orient WFC’s next home game will be at the Breyer Group Stadium when they take on Norwich City at 2pm on September 8.
Orient: Ogunde, Piira, Brown, Bastyr, Auguste, McCann(C), Xidhas, Holmback, Young, Ali, Charles
Subs: Ripoll Douton, Stenning, Hirst, Raby
Goals: Charles (19, 68), Young (56), Stenning (117)
Cambridge: Smith, Hewitt, K.A.Burt, Moore, Blanchflower, Cantwell, Jenkins, Hodgson, K.Burt, Croucher, Coupar
Subs: Bennett, Kilmartin, Peyton, Crook
Goals: Blanchflower (10), Hewitt (53), Coupar (90)
Referee: Thomas Brooks