Cheltenham Town Ladies FC have made it to the second round of the Vitality FA Cup after beating Exeter City Ladies 4-3 on penalties following a close fought 1-1 draw.
The Robinesses took the lead in the 34th minute when Billie Haynes slotted home. They kept that lead until the 90th minute when Exeter equalised with a penalty.
After no extra time winners, it was Cheltenham Ladies who claimed victory from the penalty spot. Exeter missed two penalties, one of which was saved by Cheltenham goalkeeper Robyn Levett.
The second round awaits thanks to the win, and after six weeks off the pitch due to the coronavirus restrictions, it’s a huge relief that the football is back for fans and players alike. A win today just tops off the return for the Ladies, who also look to keep up their good start in the league. They currently sit fourth in the table.
Speaking to press after the game manager Tom Davies reflected on the performance, highlighting how well his team played especially after six weeks out.
He said: “It's difficult, penalties is never a nice way to win a fixture, its difficulty but ultimately it has to be done. I said before the penalties and extra time that I was really proud. We were phenomenal, the work rate and determination were outstanding.
“No matter what happened in the penalty shoot-out we had already sort of said where we were at. It’s nice to get that extra one as well and win the shoot-out.
“I think the staff and I are tired, I’m not sure how the players have managed to be honest. They were phenomenal, the work rate, they went into extra time searching for a goal, we had to turn from defensive into offensive which is really difficult especially after six weeks out. The girls took on the information and were outstanding, they worked so hard. They restricted their chances and created a few of their own.”
With the second round draw still regionalised, Davies is hoping simply for a home tie now that supporters are allowed back to watch his side.
“Everybody wants a home draw; everyone wants supporters back and now they can come back that’s what we want. Whether we draw a side who play at the level above or someone at our level it doesn’t matter, it’s a game of football and it’s 90 minutes to go and push ourselves and test ourselves. We’ll take whoever comes, give it our best shot and see what happens.”
The Robinesses face Southampton Ladies in their next fixture, a tough game after 120 minutes in the Cup, but after battling well in each game so far this season, Davies will be looking forward to another challenge.
“120 minutes isn’t ideal, we’ll reassess and change our week slightly making sure we’re looking after players and giving them the support. It was an extra 30 minutes, so we know that they were pushed so we’ll just focus on a few other things.”