ASHFORD UNITED 1-3 ACTONIANS
Actonians made it seven wins from their last eight matches as they claimed a place in Monday's Women's FA Cup Third Round draw.
Playing a side from two divisions below them, they were expected to start as strong favourites but they made heavy weather of it on a grey and drizzly afternoon in Kent.
With Maria Ledezma-Viso starting on the right of attack, the first chance fell to her but a heavy touch as she burst into the box allowed the goalkeeper to come out and collect.
A vocal crowd of 200 urged on the hosts and they took charge of the early stages with a shot flying high and wide and a succesion of corners putting Amy Butler and her defence under pressure.
In the 10th minute, their efforts paid off as Sarah Coomson was unable to fully clear a dangerous ball and Jodie Cain lashed home for the underdogs to give them a shock 1-0 lead.
Mollie O'Reilly, up front after scoring twice against Hounslow in midweek, fired a low drive wide in the 17th minute as Actonians attempted a comeback.
A huge moment arrived in the 27th minute when another Ashford attack left one of their players with a clear sight of goal only for a fantastic save from Butler to keep her out.
The visitors offerred little in reply and gratefully made it to half-time with only a one-goal deficit to chase.
Making use of the chance to regroup, manager Danny Harrigan sent out a changed side for the second half with Rhiannon Ishmael and T'Yana Nee-Chambers replacing Jasmine Williamson and O'Reilly.
With Meila D'Santos moving to the right wing, Natsumi Kanno to the left and Ledezma-Viso into the centre-forward's position, things started to change almost immediately.
As Nee-Chambers started to spray dangerous passes around from midfield, a low ball in from the left found Ledezma-Viso unmarked 10 yards out and her sidefooted effort went in off the bar despite the best efforts of the goalkeeper.
At this point the form book would suggest Actonians would have gone through the gears and closed out victory but for all their dominance, a second was not forthcoming.
On 68 minutes, Ashford did get forward and when two players collided in the box a big cry went up for a penalty.
It must have been a marginal decision but with most people in the crowd urging the referee to point to the spot, she thought otherwise and play continued.
Not needing any more second chances, the A's wrestled back control of the game with Natsumi Kanno tirelessly charging all over the pitch and causing all kinds of problems.
A good chance fell to D'Santos after a fine ball from Ledezma-Viso but she scuffed it wide when well placed.
Ledezma-Viso had the ball in the net again in the 73rd minute but it was ruled out.
Sadly, it was to be her last significant contribution of the afternoon as while sprinting hard to catch a long ball, she pulled up and went down with what appeared to be a thigh injury.
Swiftly subbed off, she was replaced by the imposing presence of striker Roschelle Shakes.
Within minutes, the club stalwart had changed the game.
As Actonians threatend again, a ball dropped to Shakes just inside the area and she calmly set herself before planting it in the far corner.
With the ball nestling in the back of the net, Ashford's defence screamed for offside but this time it was the assistant referee who remained unmoved and the visitors celebrated after finally taking the lead.
Three minutes before the end, they wrapped up the win when Shakes fed Kanno who took the ball to the byline, turned her defender inside out, sprinted into the box and bent it into the corner to make it 3-1.
Player of the match for me was Natsumi Kanno. She worked effortlessly throughout, putting in tough tackles, going on mazy runs, creating numerous chances and scoring a goal of great quality near the end.
Honourable mentions also need to be made for Amy Butler in goal, who pulled off a crucial save which kept the A's in it, captain Naomi Graham who kept encouraging her team throughout and put in some solid tackles when necessary and Shakes who really proved to be a gamechanger.
The victory takes Actonians' winnings in this year's competition to £18,000 and they now go into the hat alongside teams from the Championship including Southampton who the A's former captain Ashleigh Ward now plays for.
The draw will be broadcast on Monday night at 7pm on Talksport 2 - make sure you tune in!
Report and photo by James Doe