Barking Abbey (Reds) have their eyes on a 2017/18 triple success after goals from Megan Waters, Eva Carvalho and Holly Turner (2) saw them become the first ever Essex Under 18s Girls Cup winners, defeating Great Danes (Lions) at Aveley FC.
The side, jointly managed by Jason Stephens and Paul Lowther, are also close to league and league cup triumphs and their victory over Danes, who netted through Savannah Japal in the second half, could inspire Abbey to complete that milestone. “The aim at the beginning of this season was always the treble, so we’re still on for that,” said Stephens.
“The team are used to winning. They haven’t lost a game as a group of girls in three years and they don’t know defeat, so that’s the good thing about it. We’re not going to celebrate too much as we know we’ve got two other trophies to collect. The mentality was built in to win and celebrate the season at the end, so there’s another two to go.”
Barking seized the initiative in the 10th minute when Waters progressed into left-hand side of the box and drilled left-footed across goalkeeper Charlie Orwell into the far bottom corner. Then they doubled their advantage thanks to Carvalho’s 28th-minute effort. The ball was hooked over a shoulder into the area where Carvalho took it on a stride and calmly clipped wide of the exposed advancing goalkeeper.
“It was very stop-start,” said Stephens of the first half. “We started the possession very well and created a lot of openings in the first 25, 30 minutes. Unfortunately we didn’t take them or make the right choices. But we did pinch a couple of goals, went 2-0 up, and then quite a nasty injury to our centre-half unsettled the girls just after half time. It got a bit scrappy in the second half with cramp and people going down. There was no fluency at all.”
Their cause wasn’t helped when Great Danes pinched a goal back against the run of play in the 67th minute. Japal was set free on the inside right channel and she lifted the ball over advancing ‘keeper Charlotte Bolland into the net. That was the way it stayed until the last few minutes, with plenty of injury time to play due to a series of unfortunate knocks and injuries.
Abbey finally sealed the match in the final minute. After a trip in the area, skipper Turner tucked away a penalty kick to ease her team’s nerves, then they added another a minute later through Turner again, who followed up her initial parried strike to bury the rebound. “They [Great Danes] got back into it, and deservedly so,” Stephens recalled.
“They worked hard and, at 2-1, you never know how it’s going to go. Unfortunately for them - although it was the right decision - there was a silly challenge in the box and we got the penalty. It was foregone conclusion then and it was just a case of whether were going to pick up, and how many. It was an interesting night with some good moments, some scrappy moments and some unfortunate injuries from both sides, and we got the win.”
Barking Abbey (Reds): Charlotte Bolland, Molly Bowness, Tessa O’Connor, Madeline O’Connor, Gemma Aldeen, Megan Waters, Sophie Kelly, Eva Carvalho, Poppy Binding, Holly Turner, April Sykes. Substitutes (repeated): Maddie Austin, Kiera Harris, Hannah Landen, Sophie Spencer-Webb.
Great Danes (Lions): Charlie Orwell, Sadie Kirrane, Niamh Hayes, Isabel Plunkett, Jazmin Whitehead-Shakes, Ellie Kiff, Lucy Edmeades, Tara Kayne, Savannah Japal, Rebecca Kemp, Georgia Blogg. Substitutes (repeated): Emma Horton.
Referee: Christopher Noble (Barking & Dagenham).
Assistant Referees: Harry Arnot (Colchester) and Oliver Walker (Redbridge).
Fourth Official: Alfie Debono (Thurrock).