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Hat-tricks from Francesca Anunwa and Ella Fobbester helped seal a first Essex Under 18s Girls Cup success for C & K Basildon as a late rally ultimately saw the side fly to an 8-1 win.
With three goals arriving after the 88th minute, the end scoreline was a little harsh on Leigh Ramblers, who levelled the tie in the first half through Kate Newton but came up against a ruthless side who kept probing until the very end.
Sophie Spencer-Webb had nodded C & K ahead on 13 minutes, but Newton’s exquisite chip brought Ramblers level just five minutes later. Anunwa burst through to send her side back in front just after the half-hour mark, before a clinical six-goal second half saw C & K take home the trophy, with Kiera Harris’ goal just five minutes after the restart setting her side on track.
“That’s sort of been the pattern of the season,” reflected C & K boss Andrew Boyd, who praised his side’s work ethic at Harlow Town FC. “We have tough starts and, over the course of the game, have imposed ourselves on other teams and, in the end, win comfortably. It’s a great strength of the team that we are able to do that and they’re very resilient and work all the way through to the end.”
“They never stop working and they get the results. The first half couldn’t have been closer and it easily could’ve gone the other way. But we’ve got a great squad and everyone will work hard and everyone works for the team.”
“We’re able to shut teams down, we’re able to deal with the pressure, which is a real strength, and then, when we do see opportunities, we’re able to take them. That was the story of the second half. Every opportunity which fell to us we took. That’s probably the difference from the first half.”
The girls’ set-up within C & K, whose women’s First Team play at Step Three of the English ladder in the National League, has thrived since forming less than two years ago. Andrew is sure this side will go onto further success: “Probably about half [of the team] can play again next year,” he explained.
“We’ve got some who are under 16 playing up and we’ve got some who are second year under 18s who will be going onto adult football from this season. So we’ve got a bit of a mix, but I think next season we’ll have another strong squad and we’ll see how we go.”
In the match itself, C & K were on the front foot early on, with Leigh Ramblers’ goalkeeper, Susy English, making a fine save to push Georgia Hyland’s shot around the post before Spencer-Webb headed the opening goal from a right-wing cross at the far post.
But resilient Ramblers were hard-working, too, and forged their way back into the game, levelling on 18 minutes as a ball forward dropped for Newton, who impressively chipped home. Anunwa restored C & K’s lead on 32 minutes, racing through on goal before finishing with aplomb. Her side remained ahead thanks to a good block denying Ramblers’ Denton following a good move.
A crucial third goal arrived shortly after the break as Harris side-footed home a loose ball, placing C & K firmly in the ascendancy. But a couple of match-changing moments followed as a beautiful finish from Ramblers’ Denton was chalked off for offside before C & K responded by adding a fourth through Fobbester’s cool lob to all but seal the tie.
C & K hit the crossbar though Catherine Powell’s dinked shot, but soon added a fifth as Fobbester netted from the penalty spot a minute after the hour. Leigh still showed great glimpses themselves as Newton showed excellent touch and close control before her run was ended by C & K ‘keeper Beth Page. Though a sixth arrived on 88 minutes.
Anunwa slid a fine, low finish into the bottom corner and, moments later, Sophie Kelly’s in-swinging corner bounced away off the near post. Into stoppage time, the winning margin was sealed when Anunwa and Fobbester both completed their trios, Anunwa getting in on goal and dummying the ‘keeper before slotting in and Fobbester doing so via a well-placed late lob.
“It gives them plenty to aspire to [tasting more nights like this],” said boss Boyd after the game. “It’s a brilliant feeling and this is what football’s all about. If you can’t enjoy nights like this then you shouldn’t be in the game, to be honest with you. These opportunities don’t come along often so, when they do come along, you need to grab them and enjoy them.”
C & K Basildon: Beth Page, April Sykes, Tessa O’Connor, Isobel Boyd, Molly Bowness, Catherine Powell, Sophie Kelly, Georgia Hyland, Kiera Adcock, Francesca Anunwa, Sophie Spencer-Webb. Substitutes (repeated): Macey Rothon, Anaum Rabbani, Ella Fobbester, Kiera Harris.
Leigh Ramblers: Susy English, Amber Denton, Megan Thomas, Kaitlin Leverington, Georgia Casleton, Kate Newton, Nicola Catling, Emily Mackler, Lauren Speller, Aimee Skinner, Martha Cox. Substitutes (repeated): Molly Giles, Maddie Studd, Sian Hills, Maddie Archer.
Referee: Rebecca Dunning (Brentwood).
Assistant Referees: Lewis Cobden (Colchester) and Joseph Greenleaf (Colchester).
Fourth Official: Anthony Vaughan (Tendring).