Rovers Ladies came from a goal behind away at Oxford United Women to win 2-1 and reach the Fourth Round of the SSE Women’s FA Cup.
Oxford took the lead thanks to Evie Gane’s goal on the stroke of half-time, but a brace from Natasha Flint, including a 90th minute winner, saw Rovers progress in dramatic fashion.
Gemma Donnelly’s side were without key squad members such as club captain Lynda Shepherd, and six other first-team regulars. But a host of Development players stepped in, including Megan Dykes, who made her first team debut from the start.
Rovers created the first real opportunity when Flint found space to strike from outside the area, but hit her shot narrowly wide.
Jess Holbrook then played in Saffron Jordan, but a last ditch tackle prevented the striker getting a shot on goal.
The visitors then fashioned a host of opportunities. Flint struck a free-kick wide from 35 yards out, before her effort from outside of the box was well held by Lucy Thomas.
Fenton then went for a goal from a free-kick, but couldn’t find the target. Soon after, a neat Rovers move ended with Chelsey Jukes shooting wide on the half-volley.
Oxford were also dangerous on the counter attack and had chances of their own. Ellie Noble won back possession and Danielle Gibbons was forced to deny her with a fiercely struck shot.
Back at the other end Flint showed great skill to get past a defender and find Jordan, whose strike hit the side netting. Jordan had another chance when Jukes pulled the ball back, but she fired over from inside the box.
Gibbons was down quickly to deny Oxford breaking the deadlock when Emily Allen got the wrong side of the Rovers defence.
In an increasingly end-to-end game, Flint beat the offside trap to latch onto Holbrook’s through ball, but Thomas tipped her strike over the bar.
The opener came in stoppage time at the end of the first-half. Georgia Timms’ shot was saved by Danielle Gibbons, but Gane was on hand to turn home the rebound.
Rovers tried to respond before the interval when Fenton met Holbrook’s free-kick, but Oxford put bodies on the line to block her attempt on the line.
The Blues had a penalty shout turned away early in the second-half when Jordan appeared to be taken down in the area, but nothing was given.
Substitute Issy Pacitto made an instant impact finding Jordan in the box, but Thomas made a point blank save to deny her.
The visitors would soon be level. Eve Clarkson played in Flint who poked the ball home for her 25thgoal of the season.
Rovers still weren’t having it all their own way as Oxford threatened to retake the lead. Gibbons saved Flo Fyfe’s effort before Timms flicked the ball wide from a Gane cross.
Jordan took on free-kick duties with 10 minutes remaining and struck a thunderous free-kick from 25 yards that narrowly evaded the post.
The winner came in the final minute of normal time as Flint showed great feet to evade two challenges and fire the ball home.
There were still a couple of nervy moments to survive deep into stoppage time. United threw everyone forward for a free-kick, including goalkeeper Thomas, but couldn’t find the target.
Cat Beaver then headed a cross past Gibbons, but the ball went narrowly wide and Rovers held on to put their name in the hat for the Fourth Round, where teams from the top two tiers of Women’s football enter the competition.
Next up for Rovers is a return to league action, away to Huddersfield Town Ladies on Sunday 13th January, 2pm.
ROVERS: Gibbons, Jukes, Clarkson (Kennerley 81), Stuart (Agger 45), Holbrook (C), Fenton, Jordan, Flint, McDonald, Dykes, Walsh (Pacitto 61).
Unused Subs: Size, Rawstron, Gerrard, Redman.