Luton Town Ladies went through to the second round of the Women’s FA Cup with a penalty shoot-out win over Kent FC on Sunday.
In a welcome break from a hitherto underwhelming league campaign, Luton would have been hopeful of progressing to the next round, sitting above their opponents in the league pyramid.
They were without the injured Zara Carroll, but could welcome back first choice keeper Kezia Hassall and Olivia Abraham.
Both sides struggled to create anything in the opening 20 minutes, although Aurora Ryan’s positivity and lively runs did inject a degree of energy into the hosts.
Goalless at half time, the beginning of the second half brought about a short flurry of chances.
Dionne Manning’s strike from the edge of the area was deflected a whisker wide, while Ryan latched on to a loose ball after a mix-up between Kent’s keeper and a defender, but she was narrowly denied by a last-ditch sliding challenge.
This spell of dominance was abruptly ended when the referee awarded a soft penalty on the hour mark as Natalie Kosky went shoulder-to-shoulder with an opponent to concede a penalty which was converted.
However, the Hatters regained the ascendancy and were only behind for 10 minutes, Nicola Henman beautifully bending a shot into the top corner for 1-1.
With no more goals before the full time whistle, the game went into extra time.
Neither side could be parted during the uneventful half hour, meaning penalties were needed.
Kent scored their first penalty, but then inexplicably put all three of their other penalties off target, whilst Hassall and Erica Byron both scored to give Kosky the opportunity to win Luton the game.
The centre half stepped up with confidence and dispatched the spot kick into the bottom corner, as Town celebrated with a mixture of delight and relief.
Boss Nikki Baker said: “I am delighted to be in the hat for the second round.
“We badly needed a win after poor league form and we have so many key players injured we have struggled.
“It will help morale now going forward and hopefully we can build on this.”
Hatters, who now have a fortnight off, will travel to Billericay Ladies in round two after the draw was made on Monday.