The magic of the SSE Women’s FA Cup is still well and truly alive for Burnley FC Ladies after the history-makers beat Premier North side Stoke City to reach the third round of the competition.
Clarets boss Matthew Bee now believes that anything is possible and a lucrative tie against a Super League 1 club could be their reward should his underdogs defy the odds once more away at Cardiff City.
Two tiers will separate the sides once again at the International Sports Stadium on January 7th but the incentive is there for Burnley to cause another upset with the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool entering in the pot for the fourth round.
The Clarets held the Potters to a goal-less draw at Community Drive, eventually keeping their nerve from the spot to win 4-1 in the shoot-out.
“It’s unbelievable,” buzzed Bee. “I don’t think anybody predicted that going in to it. It’s another massive result for us and on the back of a couple of bad results in the league too.
“The character, attitude and application of the girls was top drawer. We have to give everything for the shirt.
“The badge that we wear holds a lot of responsibility and expectation. That’s what comes when you pull on a Burnley shirt.
“It’s absolutely massive and it’s a great bit of history for the club. It was a really tough one for us to get through and I still don’t think that the magnitude of the achievement has properly sunk in yet.
“They’ve shown that anything is possible now. If we get through this round then we’ve got a huge chance of being drawn against one of the Women’s Super League teams.”
Becky Hayton, Justine Wallace, Georgia Payton and Lynette Craig netted the penalties while goalkeeper Lauren Bracewell saved twice from the hosts.
The home side, strengthened by a cohort of Welsh internationals, looked to make the two tier differntial count early on and Roisin Kivel was denied by Bracewell from close range after Ashleigh Hayes had burst through and squared the ball.
Both sides had penalty claims ignored midway through the half as Clarets defender Joanne Holt upended Hayes in the box while Tash Tezgel pushed Evie Priestley to the turf at the other end.
Hannah Keryakoplis shaved the woodwork with a free-kick from 20 yards out and the striker went closer still when a right-footed shot clipped the crossbar.
Burnley defended doggedly to protect their clean sheet after the break and even when the hosts broke through Bracewell was on hand to intervene.
The goalkeeper pushed Hayes’s attempt to safety and was well-positioned to collect Kelsey Richardson’s effort from distance.
The away side’s best chance of the half fell to Sarah Greenhalgh after the forward was picked out by Leah Embley but Stoke stopper Stacey Wright claimed at the second attempt after spilling the shot.
With 20 minutes of the tie remaining City struck the bar when Kate Asher’s attempt carried too much venom for Bracewell to deal with and then the substitute grazed the upright after collecting Hollie Gibson’s cross.
Frustration started to creep in for Stoke and Keryakoplis in-particular as the striker did well to work an opening on the angle of the penalty area and her curling shot deceived Bracewell and cannoned back off the post.
In extra-time, Asher somehow failed to tap in to an empty net from close range with Bracewell nowhere to be seen and Vikki Eastwood came to the rescue to hack the ball off the line.
Bracewell kept City at bay in extra-time, plunging low to turn Asher’s attempt around the post and then doing the same to foil Gibson.
The full back did managed to convert from the spot but the damage had already been done when Bracewell guessed correctly to deny Emily Owen and Richardson.
Following an impressive display, which showcased some of the hallmarks of Sean Dyche’s side, Bee said: “We didn’t want to go there and try to out-football them.
“We defended very well and tried to hit them on the counter. We wanted to win our one-v-one battles and show an aggression in our play.
“We model ourselves on those standards and expectations and we believe in building from a solid base and a good structure.
“We look for that same balance as the first team. That mixed football. It’s all about looking at how to be effective.
“It was a performance that the town and club should be proud of. Let’s see if we can do it again now.
“Cardiff play at the same level as Stoke City but in the southern section so we know that they’ll be an unbelievably good team as well.
“The next round is played on the same weekend as the men’s FA Cup third round so it’s a massive weekend for the club.
“It would be a great weekend if Burnley can get a result away at Manchester City and we can back it up against Cardiff City.”
Elsewhere the Lady Clarets Reserves were beaten 3-1 by Accrington Stanley Community Trust in the Lancashire FA Women’s League Cup. Hannah Scott scored for the Clarets.
On Sunday, both teams are back in league action. The first team play Blackburn Community at Barden and the Reservers play Barrowford Celtic at Bullholme. Both games kick off at 2 p.m.