Chichester City Ladies dug deep to see off a determined and forceful C&K Basildon side to progress to the third round of the FA Cup after an absorbing 4-2 win after extra time at Oaklands.
Chichester, who will now face Luton in the third round, were the underdogs going into the tie but they had confidence from their win at Gillingham and it didn’t take long for them to take an early lead through Jess Lewry.
Six minutes had gone when Cherelle Khassal broke and played a perfect ball across to the unmarked Lewry, who sidefooted the ball past the outstretched hand of keeper Nikita Runnacles and into the bottom corner.
Basildon made a difficult game even more testing a short time later when they were reduced to ten players when Amy Nash got involved in a fiery moment and was shown red by referee Chris White.
The team with fewer players picked up the pace and dominated possession and it wasn’t that long before the visitors levelled as skipper Zoe Rushen converted a penalty after Therese Addison was upended.
Close to the break the visitors got their noses in front when Addison rounded off another sweet move from the Blues to send a piledriver into the roof of the net from 12 yards.
At the break the crowd enjoyed watching a Christmas-themed penalty shootout and the kids took great pleasure in frolicking around a snow machine.
The second half got under way with Chichester knowing the tie was still there for them if they believed in themselves and Jade Widdows dragged the Green Army level only five minutes in.
The ball found its way to the striker and she let fly with a low effort on goal. Runnacles seemed to have it covered but it took a huge bobble in front of her and flew over her outstretched frame and in.
Chichester and their fans were alive again but, on the hour, their task was checked again when Lewry was given a harsh second caution and her marching orders.
The home management brought on Jenna Fowlie and her exuberance on the flank enlivened the hosts.
Thoughts of extra time and penalties were looming but Chichester went close to snatching it late in normal time.
In extra time’s first period the game swung decisively Chichester’s way. Chloe Dowdell, making her return to the squad and coming off the bench, pressed well to force a corner on the right. Lauren Cheshire swung in the corner and Emma Alexandre met it with a firm header to put City back in front.
Things got even better just a minute later when Khassal pounced on an awful slip by Runnacles and fired a rocket back past her into the roof of the net.
Chichester still had the second period of extra time to go but applied themselves expertly to thwart every effort from Basildon and see out a wonderful victory and a place in the third round.
It was a wonderful day at Oaklands – one that will certainly be remembered by all present.
CCLFC: S Wilson-Blakely, Cheshire, Taylor, Alexandre, Lewry, Khassal, Wride, Collighan, Widdows, Ingram, Barron. Subs: Fowlie, Tucker, Dowdell, Walford, Shine.