Jay Blackie’s long-range first-half goal proved decisive as Essex maintained top spot in the Southern Counties Women’s Championship North Group with a 1-0 win over the Army at Aldershot Military Stadium.
Kim Coster’s Essex side now know victory in their final group clash with Middlesex in February will seal a place in the end-of-season championship decider against the winners of the South Group. It was a hard-fought win for Essex who would’ve felt they could’ve led by more at the break before seeing out a tight, competitive second period.
The first chance of the night fell to the Army as Rachel Rigby latched onto a through ball, but she hit her finish just over the top. What proved to be the winner arrived as early as 14 minutes into the contest. Blackie’s high lob dropped underneath the crossbar to give her side the lead.
Only minutes later, Army’s Olivia Dixon fired inches wide at the near post before home goalkeeper Daisy Burnfield did well to gather the ball at the feet of Essex’s Holly Turner. Essex custodian and skipper Alex Baker then dashed quickly off her goal line to block Dixon.
The visitors were close to a second when Lindsey Morgan’s low, angled shot bounced off the far post, then on the stroke of half time, Blackie nodded narrowly wide at the near post. A second half of very few openings followed.
The Army’s Kelly Aldridge stabbed an angled shot just past the post mid-way through the period, but the only other opportunity ten minutes from time saw home ‘keeper Burnfield do well to hold onto Abigail Fry’s half-volley.
Essex: Alex Baker (Billericay Town), Laken Duchar-Clark (Billericay Town), Hannah Porter (Harlow Town), Lucy Jones (Billericay Town), Cerys Adams (AFC Basildon), Courtney Lumley (Billericay Town), Jay Blackie (Billericay Town), Lindsey Morgan (Billericay Town), Kelly Wealthall (AFC Basildon), Holly Turner (AFC Basildon), Courtney Clarke (AFC Basildon). Substitutes (repeated): Poppy Binding (AFC Basildon), Emily Mackler (Leigh Ramblers), Abigail Fry (Hutton), Evie Anderson (Billericay Town), Gemma Abela (AFC Basildon).
Army: Daisy Burnfield, Tara Parker, Lois Jacobs, Shannon Lueston, Louisa Anderson, Lucy Foreman, Delise Clifford, Demi Edwards, Olivia Dixon, Kelly Aldridge, Rachel Rigby. Subs: Shannon Morgan, Lucia Turner.
Photos: Nicky Hayes.