Rovers Ladies suffered extra-time heartache as they bowed out of the FA Women’s Cup following a dramatic 2-0 defeat away to Women’s Super League side Reading.
Gemma Donnelly’s young charges almost pulled off a memorable cup upset, but Rio Hardy spurned a golden chance to win it when she saw her spot-kick saved 15 minutes from time.
Reading’s experience told in extra-time, as goals in quick succession from Fran Kirby and Helen Ward sent the Royals through to the fifth round.
Rovers took time to find their feet early on, but stuck to their game plan and soon started to see more of the ball and eventually caused Reading a few problems, especially from set-plays.
Reading came out strongly at the start of the second half, but Rovers were happy to frustrate the hosts and almost opened the scoring from a corner, as a great ball in from Hannah Forster was met by Steph Hardy, but she couldn’t generate enough power on her header.
Rovers had an even better chance on 75 minutes, as great combination play down the right-hand side set Rio Hardy through on goal and after being brought down from behind, the striker took the penalty herself, but Nicky Davies made a superb save.
Rovers looked confident and organised as the game entered extra-time, but tired legs ultimately proved their undoing after the interval.
Shortly after the restart, Kirby went on a good run, before slotting home from a tight angle and a few minutes later, Ward added a second.
Assistant manager Amanda Goodwin said: “We did not look like a Northern Prem team and we didn’t make them look like a Super League team.
“We were under no pressure and showed them no respect, and we couldn’t have asked for any more from the players. They applied themselves professionally throughout and were absolutely immense.
“We are disappointed to miss the penalty, as we would have seen the game out, but that’s football. We had eight Under-18s in our squad, whilst they had much more experienced internationals in theirs.
“It is a terrific learning curve for our young players, some of whom were playing in the FA Women’s Cup for the first time. There are loads of positives to take forward and if we play like that against teams in our division, we know that we’ve got nothing to fear and we will pick up plenty of positive results between now and the end of the season.”
ROVERS: Hutcheson, Fleming, Seed, S. Hardy, Bourne, Flynn, Westerman (Musker 30), H. Forster, Walsh, Adams (Pennington 70), R. Hardy.
Subs not used: Goodwin, Savage.