West Brom Women 1-1p CTLFC, FA WNL League Plate

6th December 2021

Report by Jamie Cameron

The lottery of a penalty shoot-out went in Cheltenham’s favour this week as they knocked out tier three opposition in the National League Plate.

After exiting the FA Cup in dramatic circumstances to Southampton Women’s last Sunday, the Robins travelled to Northern Premier side West Bromwich Albion looking for some cup heroics of their own.

And that was exactly what they produced, withstanding a barrage of attacks at times from the Baggies to force it to penalties after a 1-1 draw in 90 minutes.

Holly Rogers was the first to miss from the spot, but Cheltenham came back firing, and progressed thanks to two saves from the excellent Aimee Watson (pictured).

Manager Tom Davies continued to rotate his squad during the busy fixture list as Georgie-Marie Barbour-Gresham and Kate Bowden came into the side in place of Lois Colley and Lacy-Jai Liggett.

West Brom started well, hitting the bar in the first 10 minutes, before Trina Greaves headed wide from a corner.

The first of several overhead kicks from the hosts was close to opening the scoring, as Leanne Robinson acrobatically turned the ball just wide.

On 35 minutes, Watson did superbly to tip over another overhead effort. Without creating too much themselves, Cheltenham stood firm defensively to go in 0-0 at half-time.

Sammy Hallsworth had half a chance to score at the start of the second half, but couldn’t get the right contact on Courtney Jones’ free-kick.

West Brom then had a goal disallowed, before Bowden produced a last-ditch block and Shannon Stamps hit the woodwork.

The pressure eventually told on 79 minutes when Leigh Dugmore finished a cross at close range.

However, Cheltenham managed to force extra time with one of the last plays, when Barbour-Gresham popped up with her fourth goal of the season, heading under Poppy Bastock.

The extra 30 minutes didn’t see much goalmouth action until the final part of the half hour, when Mai Butler blocked a goal-bound shot and Watson made a brilliant double save shortly after.

A fantastic defensive performance from the Robins forced a penalty shoot-out at Coles Lane in Sutton Coldfield, with the winners to earn a place in the quarter-finals of the Plate.

Although West Brom scored their first three, both Charlotte Criddle and Abby Bevan found the net to keep pace with the hosts.

Then came Rogers’ miss, but Watson saved the hosts’ fourth spot-kick to ensure Cheltenham remained in the contest.

Barbour-Gresham and Liggett both converted to take it to sudden death, and after Watson saved again, captain Butler stepped up and produced the coolest of penalties to seal a superb away win for the Robins.

Post-match, Davies said: “In the first half, we gave them a bit too much respect. They’ve got some fantastic individual players and they’re well-drilled as a unit, but we sat off too deep and gave them too much time and space.

“We were a lot better in the second half. We came out more aggressive. The message at half time was to play in a way that we’re proud of and try and get a result that way. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved.”

On the resilience to win on penalties, he added: “To come back from last week, especially when we’ve missed that first one, took a lot of bottle and composure. It’s nice to come out on the other side of it.

“We want to use today as a platform going forward, but we want to be creating more chances that our forwards can go and take.”

Cheltenham now prepare for a return to league action after two months of cup games, with games against Poole Town and Chesham United on the horizon before Christmas.

On those games, Davies said: “We’ve got two opportunities to get three points to put ourselves in and around the race for the league title.

“We’re really happy that we’ve made history for the club, we’re in the quarter-finals and we’re going to keep going and enjoy the ride.”

Cheltenham: Watson, Jones, Butler, Barbour-Gresham, Hallsworth, Criddle, Bowden (Liggett 67), Bevan, Haynes (Rogers 88), Wathan, Grove.
Subs note used: Colley, Hayward, Walecki.

Robins’ Player of the Match: Aimee Watson.

D2 Interactive