Rovers Ladies suffered FA Women’s Cup heartache after losing a nine-goal thriller at home to Portsmouth.
Ini Umotong scored a hat-trick as the south-coast club edged the exciting third round tie 5-4.
Umotong opened the scoring inside five minutes, but Rovers levelled soon after as Sophie Jones’ header went in off the underside of the bar.
Portsmouth regained the lead on 26 minutes through Charley Wilson, only for Rovers to hit straight back, as Jones headed home Jess Holbrook’s free-kick.
The hosts were left with a mountain to climb after Portsmouth netted twice in quick succession at the start of the second half. Molly Clarke grabbed a goal on the break for 3-2, before Umotong converted a cross for her second.
Rovers reduced the arrears on 78 minutes through substitute Georgia Stanway, who linked up well with Danielle Sheen, before finishing low under the keeper when one-on-one, but Portsmouth restored their two-goal advantage when Umotong completed her hat-trick on the counter.
Holbrook set up a frantic finale as she rifled home Rovers’ fourth with just a few minutes remaining, but Portsmouth held on to progress.
Manager Gemma Donnelly said: “Obviously it is disappointing to lose such a closely-fought game. Whilst the players were mentally prepared for Portsmouth’s unique style of play, perhaps a midweek match and the intensity of the game took its toll.
“What should be highlighted is the players came from behind on three occasions and took the game to the dying seconds and were very close to getting an equaliser to take it into extra-time. It was really pleasing to see their reaction, however we were always chasing the game, which was very disappointing, because they were told how Portsmouth would play and we never really got to grips with it.
“The defeat does mean that we can now re-focus on the league. We’ve got quite a few games in hand on the teams above and around us, and even though we are sitting in fourth place, it doesn’t mean by any accounts that we are out of contention for challenging for the title this season, given that we still have the top teams to play and Sunday’s game was a good test and we can only learn from it.
“Credit to Portsmouth on their victory and we wish them luck in the next round against Millwall.”
ROVERS: Jackson, Shaw, Twohig, Chandarana, Bourne, Fleming, Shepherd, Holbrook, Sheen, Boyle (Stanway 35), Jones (A. Taylor 71).
Subs not used: M. Taylor, Maher, Westerman.