Crystal Palace Ladies eased their way into the Surrey FA County Cup Final on Sunday, making light work of their semi-final against a depleted Milford Ladies team. In a match where The Eagles demonstrated the difference in league standings, the crowd at Bromley FC were treated to a wide range of well taken goals from the home side.
The scoring started as early as the first five minutes and continued at regular intervals from then onwards. The ever-impressive Roschelle Shakes started the ball rolling with a close range header, with this added to by 17-year-old Leanne Bell who netted a hat-trick over the following eleven minutes, starting with an exquisite lob over the Milford keeper, followed by another great shot and capped with a header from a Holdaway corner on nineteen minutes.
Palace, by now were rampant and in impressive form, moving the ball well and dominating play. To their credit, Milford battled hard but rarely posed a threat to the Palace defence.
On twenty-three minutes, it was the turn of Gemma Bryan to get in on the scoring with the first of her own hat trick, the third in as many games. Following a neat solo run, she shot across the keeper into the opposite corner. The first half saw one more goal for Palace, the first of two own goals from Milford, following further intense home team pressure.
With little to worry about at half time, other than a couple of injury niggles ahead of next weeks big league match away at Gillingham, manager Dean Davenport looked for The Ladies to continue the passing and movement that had served so well in the first half.
As requested, Palace provided much of the same in the second forty-five minutes, with Bryan adding two more to complete her impressive hat-trick, the third goal being a very special shot which curled into the top corner from the edge of the box.
In addition to the second own goal of the game, Palace added three more, through a Shakes second and two from Northern Ireland international Pammy McRoberts to seal the victory and secure their place in the final in April.
Speaking after the match, manager Davenport commented: "First of all, we give credit to Milford, who despite being depleted in numbers, still came today to give their best. Whilst the difference in league positions and squad strengths would always favour us we knew we had to start strongly and settle quickly. The girls did just that and from then on, it was in our control."
Asked about the goals scored, Dean added: "We scored at good times and, to be honest, some of the goals today were top drawer. We had two hat-tricks today, young Leanne, and Gemma who is making a habit of it these days. But it was the work rate and effort of the whole squad that I was most pleased with.
"Whilst we will face stronger challenges this season, notably next week away at Gillingham, the girls did as asked today and now have a cup final to look forwards to. Between now and then, it's feet on the ground and time to focus on the main job of the season. League success. Whilst we would all like to win the Surrey FA County Cup, it would be somewhat hollow if we do not fulfil our potential in the title chase."
Palace Ladies now prepare for one of the toughest games left to play. They visit title chasing Gillingham on Sunday, in what could be a crucial league game, against a side looking to avenge the win Palace secured earlier in the season.
"Whilst the Gillingham match won't decide our season," Dean added, "it could go a long way to defining it. We are as ready as we can be and I know the girls will be up for the challenge."
The Surrey FA County Cup Final, Crystal Palace Ladies FC v AFC Wimbledon Ladies will take place at Leatherhead FC in the evening of Thursday 21st April 2016.