Sheffield & Hallamshire Women's Challenge Cup Final - 12th May 2019
Barnsley LFC 3 - 3 Huddersfield Town LFC
3 - 3 AET
4 - 1 Penalties
Kate Mallin (2), Laura Elford
Cup Final Heartbreak as Town Come Back but Lose on Penalties
Huddersfield Town Ladies fought back from two goals down and scored a last-minute equaliser before losing to Barnsley on penalties in the Sheffield FA Women’s Challenge Cup.
Barnsley started the brighter, with Cara Bickett taking a free kick flush to the face before Laura Carter had to tip a corner just beyond her crossbar.
And, in the tenth minute, the Tykes took the lead.
Drew Green was played one on one with Carter as a long ball over the top caught the Terriers’ defence napping and she waited for the ‘keeper to commit herself before laying the ball on a plate for sister Darcy to slide the ball home into the empty net.
Just two minutes later, deja vu.
Another ball over the top of the Town defence set Lissa Woodhouse away who calmed lofted the ball over the onrushing Carter to put Barnsley in full control of the game.
Town grew back into the match and should have pulled a goal back almost immediately, but Ellie White fired well over from ten yards out.
Sloppy finishing throughout the season prevented Huddersfield from finishing the league season as runners up and they were in danger of dropping out of sight in a final they had prepared so hard for.
Barnsley’s number ten Kathryn Smith, a key player for the Tykes, was forced off through injury, with Mollie Crimp replacing her and with Brittany Sanderson missing for the Terriers, both teams now had depleted midfields.
In a week of extraordinary comebacks in the men’s game, Town needed to repeat the achievements of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, not to mention their FA Cup exploits against Charlton, but looked nothing like doing so – until Kate Mallin took charge.
Town’s skipper picked the ball up just outside the area, burst past her man with ease and buried her shot across the ‘keeper into the bottom corner as the match entered first half stoppage time.
And Huddersfield started the second half how they ended the first – on top, with a concession of corner kicks heaping pressure on the Barnsley back line before Mallin had a glorious chance to make it 2-2.
Town’s skipper was set racing away from her own half but, as she bore down on goal, she took too long over the shot and, as her weak effort came back off the ‘keeper, she sent her second effort over the bar.
From that moment on, the winger set about making amends and did so when the Terriers got a deserved equaliser.
In the final game of her career, Sarah Dobby played a brilliant ball over the top to send Mallin one on one with her marker. The captain cut inside her man before laying the ball on a plate for Laura Elford who fired home via the underside of the crossbar.
From then on, there was only one team in the contest – illustrated when, inspired by her goal last time out, Dobby hit a rocket from thirty yards which dipped just over onto the roof of the net.
Town dominated the entire second half, but with mere minutes left on the clock, Barnsley struck a hammer blow as the lack of pace in the Terriers’ defence was exploited once again.
A ball through the middle split the entire Huddersfield back line and Amy Woodruff poked the ball beyond Carter into the bottom corner.
But the drama wasn’t done yet! Laura Elford produced a beautiful piece of skill to burst into the area before being hacked to the ground and Mallin stepped up once again for her side to hammer the penalty into the back of the net and send the game into extra time.
The only other game that Town have played an extra thirty in was the dramatic trip to Charlton where they came from 3-0 down to then win on penalties.
They missed a host of chances to prevent the shoot-out that day, but it was Barnsley who were creating opportunities in this one as the Terriers looked to be tiring.
However, as the clock ticked towards another twelve-yard face-off, Town began to dominate once more, with Katie Nutter firing just over from a half-cleared corner.
Alas, to penalties it went and it wasn’t to be for Huddersfield.
Barnsley netted all four of their penalties. whilst Mallin, who scored from twelve yards to take the game to extra time, and Sarah Danby saw their spot kicks saved by Skye Kirkham.
Katie Nutter dispatched her penalty with ease to keep Town’s hopes alive, but Sophie Bell stepped up and buried her spot kick to send the Tykes into dreamland.
Despite defeat in the final, though, it has still been a season to remember for Huddersfield who achieved a club best points total and league position in 2018/19 and no one will ever forget the ecstasy of the FA Cup.
The game was played at Rotherham United's New York Stadium and the players were accompanied onto the pitch by members of their u9's and u11's squads.