Essex Ladies completed their Southern Counties Cup campaign in style as two goals each from Zoe Rushen and Courtney Clarke sealed a 4-2 win over the Army.
It was a freezing evening at Aveley FC’s Parkside stadium, but Kim Coster’s home side warmed the spirits of the crowd as a runners-up berth in the North Group was secured with a fine performance in a first ever meeting with the Army in female football.
A late defeat to Middlesex in mid-December unfortunately meant the capital-based County advance to the final with Sussex by a solitary point, but there were plenty of words of praise for an Essex side who will reconvene next season looking to go one step further.
Essex led early in this contest as Rushen’s low shot found the bottom left-hand corner from 20 yards with 9 minutes played. The first half was a brilliantly contested affair, though it produced few clear chances. Shortly after the half-hour mark, Rushen’s fine half-volley hit the outside of the far post.
Nine minutes after the restart, the Army levelled. Lois Jacobs’ free-kick was headed in by Rachel Gwilliam, but Essex responded inside 60 seconds, re-gaining the lead. Lindsey Morgan’s low cross was diverted in by Rushen from close range.
The home county found breathing space with a third goal on 61 minutes. Clarke’s excellent, long-range strike found the top corner. Clarke then raced through on goal six minutes later and finished well into the bottom right-hand corner to make it 4-1 to the hosts.
The Army pulled a goal back with twelve minutes left when Kelly Aldridge poked home a low centre and the Army forward twice came close to grabbing another back deep into stoppage time. Firstly she thundered a shot against the underside of the crossbar before later seeing a second effort bounce off the top of the bar.
Essex: Alex Baker (Billericay Town), Kelsey Smith (Billericay Town), Hannah Porter (Leyton Orient), Lucy Jones (Billericay Town), Kerry Stimson (Ipswich Town), Abigail Fry (Hutton), Lindsey Morgan (Billericay Town), Paris Smith (Billericay Town), Zoe Rushen (Billericay Town), Courtney Clarke (C & K Basildon), Sophie Vale (Billericay Town). Substitutes (repeated): Tilly Deacon (C & K Basildon), Fran Brown (Rayleigh Town), Holly Gash (Rayleigh Town), Amy Cox-Smith (Rayleigh Town).
Army: LCpl Terri Harfield-Brown, WO2 Krissy Wright, Cpl Mandy Kidd, Heather Mearns, LCpl Steph Carrick, Cpl Lucy Forman, LCpl Mica Taylor, Cpl Hayley Sloan, LCpl Kelly Aldridge, Cpl Jessica Treharne, Cpl Lois Jacobs. Substitutes (repeated): LCpl Jemma Dinning, Nichola O’Donnell, Sgt Amber Marsh, Pte Demi Edwards, Rachel Gwilliam.
Referee: Anthony Abbs.
Assistant Referees: Neil Troubridge and Leigh Ballinger.