Super Sub Rachel Williams heads United through against Spirited Saints
Two off the bench for Rachel Williams to send the Red Devils to the next round of the FA Cup
Manchester United Women
11 February 2024
Two headed goals off the bench for Rachel Williams saw Manchester United overcome a very spirited Southampton side at The Silverlake Stadium.
Ella Toone had given United the lead with a stunning goal, but a leveller from Lexi Lloyd Smith midway through the second half appeared to put the tie back in the melting pot, however a headed double from Williams off the bench saved United’s bacon and sent them through to the Quarter Finals.
To reach this stage, Southampton have seen off Portsmouth in Round Three and Sunderland in Round Four, with a 3-1 victory over their South Coast rivals before Christmas, with Jemma Purfield scoring the winner on 72 minutes to set up the Round Four tie with Sunderland.
The second game in this years competition was a much ‘easier’ affair, with a Katie Wilkinson brace secured a 2-0 win at Sunderland to set up a first ever meeting in any competition with Manchester United.
Last years Cup runners up have only played once in this terms FA Cup, seeing off a spirited Newcasstle side 5-0 thanks to a Nikita Parris brace and further goals from Rachel Williams, Ella Toone and Melvine Malard.
Southampton boss, Marianne Spacey-Cale made one change from last weeks league defeat, bringing in Alice Griffiths for Sophia Pharaoh.
Man United handed a start to Gemma Evans with Jayde Riviere being ruled out after picking up an injury in last weekends win over Brighton, with Leah Galton also replacing Geyse in The Red Devils’ only two changes.
The championship side got the game underway in the South Coast sunshine with a long kick off routine that Man United saw off and Hannah Blundell immediately looked for Nikita Parris with a over the top pass, but it rolled out of play before the flying winger could get there.
Lisa Naalsund had the first effort of t4he game just two minutes in, after Leah Galton drove down the wing and cut inside before laying it off, but the centre midfielders effort was weak and was an easy hold for Kayla Rendell in the Saints goal.
The visitors soon made their early dominance pay with a stunning strike from Ella Toone. Millie Turner won the ball back inside the Saints half and set Galton away before she pulled it back for Toone who unleashed a pearler of a shot into the bottom left corner, leaving Rendell with no chance and giving United an early lead.
Gemma Evans very nearly set United on their way to a second constantly afterwards, but her clipped ball towards Parris couldn’t be trapped by United’s in form star.
Toone once again made a menacing run behind the Saints’ back line before twisting and turning Megan Collett, but her cross was well claimed by Rendell.
United so nearly had a second on the 20 minute mark but somehow the hosts survived. First, Nikita Parris was fed through but her low effort came back off the post, which fell invitingly to Galton who seemingly had an empty net if not for some brilliant Megan Collett defending to throw herself infront of the shot and clear it off the line.
United’s number eleven was Saints’ chief tormentor in the opening exchanges, once again bursting away from her marker before spooning a cross into the middle which couldn’t be reached by her team mates.
Katie Zelem was the next to have a poke at doubling United’s lead, firing a low free kick around the wall but it whistled inches wide.
Just after the half hour, Saints had their first effort on target as an in-swinging free kick from deep fell kindly to Alice Griffiths but her effort was blocked by a melee of United bodies. This led to a good spell of possession and pressure for the Saints, their most sustained of the game but Collet’s cross looped out pf play before making the box.
United probed going forward again and there was no surprise to anyone that Galton was at the heart, racing onto a Zelem through pass but seeing her cutback put behind for a corner which ultimately came to nothing.
Southampton were digging in and defending deep and did very well to clear a dangerous United move after Parris had pulled the ball back into Zelem.
United saw out the half with one final chance, with Maya Le Tissier lofting an effort into the arms of Saints keeper, Kayla Rendell.
HT - Southampton 0-1 Man United
Spacey-Cale made a change at half time, bringing on Lexis Lloyd-Smith for Alice Griffiths.
Southampton had the first sighting of goal in the second half , with Jemma Purfield swinging a free kick into the middle but Atlanta Primus’ header was easy pickings for Mary Earps in the United goal.
Megan Collett continued her fine performance at right back for The Saints, defending expertly up against Lisa Naalsund to snuff out upcoming United danger.
The Hosts then had their keeper to thank fior only being a goal down, with Nikita Parris latching onto a through ball from Naalsund and firing a low effort goanward which Rendell got down really well to save.
Southamptons chances to break relied on the ever energetic Molly Pike and it did look at one stage like she had a clean run through on goal, but Earps was alive to the danger mopped up the loose ball.
Parris had a massive chance to put the game beyond the reach of the hosts just after the hour, taking down another Naalsund through ball and turning inside her defender with ease, but her effort was straight at Rendell in The Saints goal.
That miss proved so costly minutes later, as half time substitute Lexi Lloyd Smith smashed in an equaliser which sent The Silverlake into delirium and bring the Championship side level.
Marc Skinner responded with a double change, introducing Rachel Williams and Irene Guerrero in place of Melvine Malard and Lisa Naalsund.
Saints had their tails up now and so nearly had a second afterwards, with Megan Collett steaming down the wing and crossing for Molly Pike, but the latter’s header drifted into the arms of Earps.
Southamption then made their own double change, with Megan Collett and Atlanta Primus being replaced by Ella Morris and Sophia Pharaoh.
Pike was once again at the heart of things for Southampton, spinning away from her marker and feeding Katie Wilkinson who rode a challenge but her effort was a easy hold once again for Earps.
United;s super sub, Rachel Williams then proved her worth off the bench with quarter of an hour to go, after brilliant work down the left, the super sub rose above her marker to power the header past Rendell and put United back infront.
Milly Mott was then carded after a foul on Parris just to the right of the Saints box, but the set piece was confidently punched clear by Rendell.
United finally put the game out of reach of The Hosts, after a Katie Zelem corner was once again met by Williams who’s header squirmed through the legs of Rendell and despite the best efforts of The Saints defence, was adjudged to have crossed the line by referee, Jade Wardle.
After the goal, Ella Toone was then withdrawn for Hayley Ladd as we entered the final seven minutes of play.
Saints felt further aggrieved by the officials as an effort appeared to be charged down and blocked by a hand of a United player, but the referee was unmoved despite numerous appeals.
Molly Pike was then withdrawn in place of Megan Wynne as we entered 7 minutes of added time .
Somehow, the Saints didn’t give themselves a chane at a comeback in added time as Lucia Kendall’s shot trickled past Mary Earps and came back off the post,
Millie Turner was then replaced by Aoife Mannion for Marc Skinners side for some fresh legs at the back.
The game was seen out with Saints continuing to put a shift in and not disgracing themselves against last seasons FA Cup Silver Medalists who advance into the Quarter Finals of this years competition.
Full Time - Southampton 1-3 Manchester United
Saints - Lexi Lloyd Smith 65’
Manchester United - Ella Toone 6’. Rachel Williams 74’, 82’.
Attendance - 4,554.