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Top scorer Barnes heads Maidenhead United Women into the next round of the FA Cup

By Neil Maskell

Photo: Darren Woolley

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Maidenhead United Women 1, Denham United 0

Maidenhead United Women made it back-to-back wins on Sunday, but they were pushed all the way by Denham United as they sneaked into the next round of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup second qualifying round with a 1-0 win.

The Magpies snatched victory deep into added on time when Natalie Barnes was first to react to nod the ball home after Nicole Barrett’s sumptuous free kick bounced back off the post with the Denham keeper well beaten.

Indeed, the London & South East Regional Women’s Football League underdogs can count themselves slightly unfortunate not to have won the game themselves.

Manager Nev Saroya kept faith the starting XI that had won at Cheltenham Town the previous weekend, but the home side struggled to get to grips with their visitors in a largely unmemorable first half. The visitors played the ball around nicely and were an aerial threat from several corners they won in the first period.

Simone O’Brien came close for Maidenhead with a couple of well struck efforts which flew wide of the target but, with the impressive Lauren Cox giving the Magpies plenty to think about and Rachel Griffiths holding the ball up well for Denham, the Magpies were somewhat relieved to come in at half-time on level terms.

United posed more of an attacking threat in the second half, but their clearest cut opportunity was spurned as O’Brien was denied by goalkeeper Lizzie Rose. Denham looked the more likely winners in the closing stages, with Megan Halfacree producing an important block to keep out a goal-bound effort. That had Denham shouting for handball and a penalty, but they went even closer when Cox glanced a header off Nina Merritt’s crossbar.

But the sucker punch for them came deep into injury-time when Barrett’s magnificent free kick came back off the post with Rose beaten all ends up and top scorer Barnes pounced on the loose ball, heading into an empty net to spark delirious scenes of celebration. The final whistle sounded almost immediately afterwards and, with emotions running high, the referee flashed a red card to a member of the Denham management team.

It was a dramatic finish but Maidenhead’s name is in the hat for the third qualifying round draw.

Magpies: Merritt, Thompson, Halfacree, Saunders, Malhotra, Bloor, Barrett, Carvill, Barnes, Chhokar (Sub Nelson ’75), O’Brien. Subs not used: Carty-Duhaney, Mace, Nazif, Reid, Thorne.

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