A bright future has been predicted for Essex’s Under 14s Girls Schools Team as they won 4-3 on penalties against Lancashire after a gripping 3-3 draw on Friday 10th May at Stoke City FC in the English Schools FA Under 14s Girls PlayStation Inter-County Trophy Final.
Coach Georgia Maxwell-Jones’ side lifted the national silverware thanks to goals from Amy Taylor on 16 and 18 minutes, followed-up by Leonnie Bezant’s 50th-minute strike as momentum swung between the two talented sides. “The world is their oyster!” was the reaction of thrilled Essex County FA Football Development Officer, Emma Burden.
“There was so much potential on display from both sides. If the girls love the game that much and want to continue to put the hard work in like they have done to get this far, they can achieve great things. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lions on shirts in a few years’ time!”
“Congratulations go to the players, who were an absolute credit and showed such strength of character to keep it together until the final whistle. They showed a maturity well beyond their years and, watching the game back on the bus reinforced just how well they had played.”
“The coaches involved with the Under 14s are all extremely passionate about the development of female players. I believe that attitude, to be positive and enjoy the experience, was contagious and was evidenced in the photos and all the social media generated. But it’s everyone at every level playing their part, working tirelessly to develop players in Essex.”
It was Essex’s third penalty shootout in their quest for the title. The early rounds saw a tightly-contested fixture against Surrey and Essex ended up going to penalties in that game. The semi-final against Kent was also a nail-biting affair which culminated in Essex scoring in the last ten minutes to equalise in extra time and then win on spot kicks.
Emma also explained the significance of finally beating Lancashire, another county who traditionally have a wealth of female football talent: “Historically we’ve met Lancashire in either the Under 16s or the Under 14s finals every year since 2012. We always have fantastic matches against very talented sides from Lancashire.”
“We spoke about the history behind the competition in the changing room and the players who have worn the Essex shirt in earlier years. We haven’t lifted this trophy since 2012 at Carrow Road! We did feel really hard done by after the fixture against Lancashire when we played at Birmingham in 2016, but these things happen. Hopefully the 2016 squad will take some comfort in the win this season.”
According to Emma, this victory demonstrates the strength and depth of girls from both the Essex County FA Regional Talent Club and grassroots clubs. “This season we had ten girls from the RTC and six players from grassroots clubs,” she detailed. “We also involved an additional four players from grassroots clubs when we suffered from concussions and England Camps.”
“Every player was a great ambassador and role model for both their school and their club. The victory reflects the work going on in the background from coaches, as well as the time everyone’s families are giving to get these players to all their commitments. Plus the Essex County Schools FA and PE staff who continue to offer football within schools and access to further competitions.”
“What a time it is to be involved in the female game! With the FA Women’s Super League thriving, sponsorship from Barclays offering prize money and a WSL club on our doorstep who made it to the FA Women’s Cup Final in their first season, the future is bright!”
Essex: Alicia Garwood, Megan Wearing, Leonie Telford, Leonnie Bezant, Katie McClean, Kelsey Morgan, Elle Moore, Jessica Wright (C), Amy Taylor, Mia Filipiak, Ruby Sealey, Lucy Ogden, Carlie Dinham, Chloe Brand, Isabella Darby, Ruby Barnes.