Cambridge United Women exited the FA Women’s Cup at the hands of MK Dons on Sunday, despite an impressive performance against higher level opposition...
A spirited Dons had to come from behind thanks to a first half Stojko-Down header, but two second half goals from the visitors ensured their progression into the Second Round.
Cambridge had earned their spot in the First Round of the competition following a win over AFC Sudbury last month. They began their FA Cup proper with a home tie to FAWNL Premier Division side, MK Dons.
The U’s brought fine form into the tie, having only lost once in their previous 6 games, but it was yhe visitors who started the game the brightest, linking up well down both wings and going close on multiple occasions but never testing Lauren Webb in the U’s goal.
Cambridge grew into the game after the quarter hour mark, earning themselves a string of corners which had been fruitful for them over the last few weeks. It proved to be a strength once again as Brooke Cheale-Ferris swung a ball into the back post which fell to Jackson, whose shot deflected up for Alysha Stojko-Down to react quickest and head the ball past the scrambling Dons keeper.
MK Dons reacted quickly with lots of pressure on the U's defence. Their best opportunity came from a cross on the left side, which failed to be converted at the front post, which Webb looked to have covered.
Cambridge knew what they needed to do when a goal up against higher tier opposition, taking every extra second they could to make it to half time, and blocking every cross, shot and pass around their box.
The pressure was growing though and in first half added time, Sammy Edgar brought down a Dons attacker in the box prompting the referee to award a penalty. Dramatically, Lauren Webb denied the forward by diving the right way and pounded the ball away to the left, maintaining her clean sheet in expert fashion by also saving the follow up from close range.
The second half started slowly for both sides, with neither creating any clear cut opportunities and most of the play happening in the middle third of the pitch.
United's goal was finally breached in the 65th minute, through an unfortunate stroke of luck for the visitors, as a miss-hit cross from Puddick flew over Webb into the far corner.
The equaliser gave the Dons a boost and they continued to press, almost immediately finding a second goal from a shot just over the bar.
The game would continue in the same vein for the next 10 minutes, with endless MK Dons pressure. The Cambridge defence held well though, keeping the away side at bay with a strong defensive effort.
That was until the final five minutes, when their pressure finally paid off. Puddick again at the heart of it, dribbling down the left before laying the ball across for Wood to slot home and give MK the lead for the first time in the game.
The U’s made changes in response to the goal, Natasha Collins and Gisela Otten coming on for Sammy Edgar and the injured Bella Simmons. The changes brought positivity heading into added time, and Zoe Wood came close with a speculative effort from range that had the keeper beaten but didn’t stay under the bar.
Late U’s pressure pushed the visitors to make mistakes but no players in amber were able to benefit on the loose balls to create an equaliser.
The referee drew the game to a close after 10 minutes of added time, to confirm the U’s exit from the Women's FA Cup.
It's back to league action next for Darren Marjoram's side, who host QPR on Sunday 26 November, where all fans can attend free of charge.