Click here to view all the PM Baxter Photography action images from this match.
Two goals from Ellie Plant, as well as further strikes from Lilly-May Kehler and Jessica Marriner (penalty) earned Hashtag United (Blues) a comfortable Essex Under 12s Girls Cup final victory against Stanway Pegasus.
A pair of goals in each half were sufficient to lift the cup at full time and Manager, Matt Kehler, reacted: “I’m hugely proud that the team have managed to secure the silverware. It meant so much to them. It was a long build-up from the semi-final and, to go out and perform the way they did, I can’t really put into words how proud I am.”
Hashtag began the game in attacking fashion, with a chance just 2 minutes into the match as Ava Dignam made a good attacking run where she then played Plant through on goal. She got her shot on-target, but it was saved with ease by Stanway goalkeeper, Daisy Miller.
United’s next real opportunity to score came in the 14th minute. Dignam had her own effort on goal, which was saved again by Miller at the front post after some good play on the left-hand side following a throw-in. Immediately afterwards, Plant won the possession of the ball and managed to find the back of the net to give her side the lead.
“The start of the game was key, to keep nerves under control and get focused,” Kehler recalled. “We played good football and had a few chances, but the first goal was a big step. This gave them belief, and we built on this beautifully.”
The pressure from Hashtag continued, and it paid off again in the 27th minute when Kehler collected the ball in the middle of midfield from a Stanway goal kick. She got it out of her feet and chipped Miller from about 25 yards out, finding the net.
They managed one more chance just before half time as the ball was laid off to Olivia Mai Durrant, who had a shot towards the left side of the goal, with the busy Miller saving it and putting it out for a corner, which didn’t lead to anything as both sides went in for half time. The second half began relatively slowly, without many opportunities.
However, Hashtag were awarded a penalty in the 44th minute after a handball in the box from a Stanway defender, following an attack on the right-hand side. Marriner stepped up and converted the opportunity with an accurate shot to Miller’s right. Another chance followed seven minutes later after some neat link-up play between Plant and Dignam.
Plant made a brilliant run, with some good footwork, which allowed her to play Dignam through on goal. She beat her defender and struck goalwards, though it sailed just wide of the post. The final goal came in the last minute of the match. Possession advanced towards Plant from midfield and she controlled it, avoided a tackle by the goalkeeper, and calmly slotted home.
Kehler was very complimentary of the opposition at full time, as well as praising his own players: “Stanway are a good side, and I’d like to congratulate them for reaching the final. It was special to share this occasion with such lovely people. They’re a great set of players with top coaches, and they’re an amazing side.”
“I feel our girls were just unstoppable on the day, and they fully deserved this. Regardless of pressure and situation, even when in their own area, they were calm and stuck to what they’ve done all season. This was a great achievement and highlighted how far the girls have come. The future is very exciting, and this shows they are able to compete at a high level of girls’ football.”
Hashtag United (Blues): Felicity Tatum, Yvonne Masolini-Brown, Heidi Laws, Phoebe Kerr, Daisy O’Connor, Olivia Mai Durrant, Jessie Marriner, Lilly-May Kehler, Leyla Soyer, Lola Baxter, Rhianna Heaton, Ava Dignam, Elli Plant.
Stanway Pegasus: Daisy Miller, Nina Hayward, Alys Smith, Leah Cheeseworth, Leah Twin, Jessica Bass, Dakota Johnson, Sienna Carr, Katie Stevens, Ellie Gray, Sophie Lee, Connie Harvey, Gracie Bennett, Mollie Callander.
Referee: Christopher Parkinson.
Assistant Referees: Finlay Grant and Gracie Tomlin.
Fourth Official: Graham Austin.