Tractor Girls Thrash Huddersfield to Reach FA Cup Fifth Round for First Time
Sunday, 26th Jan 2020 15:51 by Ali Rampling
Ipswich Town Women’s fairytale FA Cup journey continued as they beat Huddersfield Town of the division above 4-1 away to reach the fifth round for the first time in the club's history.
A first-half hat-trick from 16-year-old striker Maddie Biggs and a Natasha Thomas strike proved decisive as the Tractor Girls produced an electrifying display in the opening 45 minutes.
The hosts pulled one back early in the second half through top scorer Lucy Sowerby, but Town saw the game out to record their third FA Cup giant killing of the season, making them the first side from the fourth tier to reach the last 16 in the history of the women’s competition.
The Tractor Girls returned to full strength after resting a number of first-team players for their County Cup victory over Brantham last time out, naming seven teenagers in the starting XI.
Having knocked out Chichester City and Portsmouth of the division above in the previous two rounds of the FA Cup, the Blues went into the game on the hunt for their third successive scalp of the season.
Huddersfield meanwhile were vying to repeat their cup antics of last year, where they eliminated Championship outfit Charlton to reach the fifth round, losing to eventual finalists West Ham.
The Terriers staged a second half comeback against Loughborough Foxes in the previous stage of this year’s competition, coming from 2-0 down to win 3-2 and set up the fourth round clash with the Blues.
Despite playing in front of a record crowd of 1,115 at the John Smith’s Stadium, and with a starting XI with an average age of just 21, the occasion did not appear to get the better of Joe Sheehan’s young side, as they raced into an early lead inside 90 seconds.
Biggs latched onto Blue Wilson’s searching long pass and emerged with the ball from a 50/50 challenge with the goalkeeper. The 16-year-old composed herself before stroking the ball into the empty net to give the Tractor Girls a dream start.
The Blues almost extended their lead five minutes later. Captain Amanda Crump sent Anna Grey away down the left flank, and the young winger’s low cross was taken off the toe of the Town skipper by a Huddersfield defender making a crucial interception as Crump looked set to apply the finishing touches to a slick Town move.
The Tractor Girls did have their second in the ninth minute, Biggs again finding the net as she headed home Sophie Peskett’s cross from the right-hand side.
Huddersfield’s Olivia Clark was the first keeper to be called into action, holding onto Natasha Thomas’s effort from a tight angle, after the Ipswich striker was played in by Peskett
The Terriers’ first effort came after a quarter of hour, as Charlotte Newsham tried her luck from range. Town keeper Nikita Runnacles watched the ball float safely over the bar.
The hosts began to enjoy a spell of possession in the Town half, but remarkably the Blues grabbed a third in the 20th minute. Abbie Lafayette switched the ball out wide to the lively Peskett, whose driven cross was turned home by Thomas for her 23rd goal of the season.
The hosts began to see more of the ball in the second half of the first period, forcing a number of corners but failing to create any clear cut opportunities. In the 38th minute, Shanna Legge’s strike from range was superbly turned around the post by the outstretched glove of Runnacles.
On the stroke of half-time, Town wrapped up an impeccable opening 45 minutes in style. Thomas played a lofted ball to her strike partner Biggs, who took a touch before slotting the ball into the bottom corner past the onrushing Clark to complete her hat-trick, the first treble of the young striker’s career.
It had been an outstanding opening 45 minutes from the Tractor Girls. There were no signs of the occasion overawing them as they confidently played out from the back from start to finish. Wing-backs Peskett and Grey had been a nuisance down either flank, while up front Thomas and Biggs had been clinical, running riot in behind Huddersfield’s high line.
Town made two changes at the break, with Ellie Rossiter replacing the impressive Peskett, and Eva Hubbard coming on for Lindsey Cooper, who had put in a solid shift at centre-half. This saw the Blues switch to a back four, with Grey and Biggs operating as wingers, leaving Thomas as the lone striker
Following a disappointing opening half, Huddersfield started the second period brightly, striker Lucy Sowerby forcing Runnacles into fantastic save from point blank range.
However, the Ipswich keeper could do nothing about 50th minute Sowerby’s effort. The Terriers’ striker buried the ball in the top corner following Kate Mallin’s cross from the Huddersfield right to give the hosts the slimmest of lifelines.
Town were struggling to get a foothold in the game, with the change of system and personnel disrupting their rhythm. Runnacles was called into action once more, as she was wrong-footed by Soweby’s long-range effort, palming it away before smothering the rebound.
The hosts continued to press, and on the hour mark they should have had their second. Laura Elford cut inside from the right wing and charged into the box, but blazed her close-range effort over the bar.
In the 64th minute, hat-trick hero Biggs was replaced by Zoe Cossey after picking up a knock. The substitution was much to the relief of the surrounding Huddersfield fans, who had seen their backline terrorised by the young striker in the first half.
As the game entered the last 10 minutes, Huddersfield continued to press while Town were content to play on the counter-attack. Hubbard made a crucial last ditch tackle as the Terriers looked to get in behind the Blues’ backline.
Despite a spirited second-half performance from Huddersfield, Town saw the game out to record an incredible 4-1 win and put themselves in the hat for the FA Cup last 16 for the first time in the club’s history.
The Blues’ outstanding first-half display and the lethalness of Thomas and Biggs proved decisive. Town did not look a league below their Northern Premier Division opponents, and although they could not maintain the intensity of their astonishing first-half display in the second period, with Runnacles producing a selection of fine saves to keep Huddersfield at bay, the Blues dug in and showed their resilience to ensure a deserved victory.
The fifth round draw will be made at 6.40pm on Monday, with Town the lowest-ranked side left in the competition.
The Tractor Girls are back in league action next Sunday, as they host bottom of the table Kent Football United at the Goldstar Ground.
Town: Runnacles, Peake, Egan, Cooper (Hubbard, 45), Wilson, Crump, Lafayette, Grey, Peskett (Rossiter, 45), Thomas, Biggs (Cossey, 64). Unused: Williamson, Pannifer, King, Wakefield.
Huddersfield: Clark, Stanfield (Marshall), Legge, Mallin, Nutter (Abbot, 85), Newsham, Evans, Danby, Elford, Sowerby, White (Smith, 80). Unused: Joyce, Abbot, Marshall, Ciesielski, Linsell, Taylor. Attendance: 1,115.
Photo: Action Images
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