Captain Jade Bradley scores directly from a corner as Pompey Women progress in Women's FA Cup with extra-time win over Cheltenham Ladies
Pompey Women secured their spot in the Women's FA Cup third round thanks to a 2-0 extra-time victory over division-lower Cheltenham at Westleigh Park.
Jay Sadler's side, playing in a competitive fixture for the first time since December 13, were largely frustrated but finally found a through their resilient opponents in a match played behind closed doors because of the cornavirus pandemic.
Captain Jade Bradley netted directly from a corner on 100 minutes before substitute and top scorer Becki Bath added a second soon after to take her tally to 14 goals in just 10 games this season as the Blues went through.
Pompey's reward for reaching the third round for the first time since 2018 is a home meeting with National League Southern Premier Division rivals Gillingham Ladies at home next weekend.
The hosts nearly marked their playing return with an early opener as they went close inside five minutes.
Captain Jade Bradley's whipped corner was met by Jazmin Younger but her front post glancing header sailed just over the crossbar.
Despite more than three months without a fixture, both teams contributed to what was a bright beginning. Cheltenham began to settle into their rhythm, although Pompey's backline were equal to a couple of promising openings for the visitors.
But it was the Blues who should have made the breakthrough just before the half-hour mark. Katherine Cunningham rampaged down the left and picked out Jade Widdows who, on the stretch, could only fire straight at Robyn Levett from inside the six-yard box.
Pompey were struggling to find a way through the resolute visitors, with Tamsin De Bunsen forced to try her luck from just outside the area and curling a left-foot effort just wide 20 minutes from time.
Cheltenham striker Jade Grove held the ball up brilliantly for her side all afternoon and nearly created a surprise opener for the visitors. She spun Younger and sent Lauren Kayll racing away, yet she skewed her effort wide of goal on 73 minutes.
The hosts could have snatched a late, late winner in normal time. Katie James did brilliantly to first keep the ball in play, then cross for substitute Shannon Albuery although she completely missed the ball.
Having been largely frustrated, Pompey finally made the breakthrough in the first half of extra-time – and what a goal it was. Captain Bradley’s whipped corner beat everyone and found the far corner to put the hosts ahead on 100 minutes.
The Blues then doubled their advantage five minutes later with substitute and leading scorer Bath firing home from outside the area.
Pompey were untroubled in the second half of extra-time and will have been pleased to make their long-awaited playing return with a victory.