Click here to view more photos on our Facebook page.
Essex Women put in a five-star showing to keep their Southern Counties Cup hopes alive as the Army were swept aside at the Military Stadium in Aldershot.
Laura Bunton became the first Essex player to score a hat-trick since March 2005 as Kim Coster’s side dominated throughout in a 5-0 victory, with Whitney Locke and Chloe Woolaway also contributing the first goals of their county careers.
The win saw Essex bounce back in style following December’s narrow reverse at home to Jersey and, with other results going their way, victory in the final two fixtures of the campaign against Kent and Middlesex would secure the title.
Essex started on the front foot, and their intentions were clear when Holly Turner’s effort struck the foot of the post with just 3 minutes played, before Turner was quickly denied again. This time, her header brought a fine save from Army goalkeeper Georgia Smith. With only 7 minutes played, Essex were ahead, though, as Locke fired in at the near post having seen her initial effort blocked.
The away side’s pressure continued, as Turner fired an angled strike inches wide before Locke slid a shot just wide following a great interchange with Bunton. Turner then flashed another shot inches over the top prior to the lead being doubled on 27 minutes. Bunton burst into the box and finished with a low drive into the far corner.
Just two minutes later, Turner rattled the crossbar, but a third did arrive with 31 minutes played as Bunton rounded ‘keeper Smith and coolly slotted home. The dying stages of the first half saw Turner twice denied by a post either side of Smith making another impressive save to deny Bunton.
Bunton wasn’t going to be denied her trio, though, grabbing Essex’s fourth of the night as the forward curved a run into the area and finished into the far corner. Shortly afterwards, Essex stopper Emily Mackler was called into action for the first time as she clung onto Alison Coucher’s effort.
The scoring was completed on the hour mark, as substitute Millie Isherwood’s fine through ball picked out Woolaway, who finished confidently with a low shot. The Army came close to a consolation as Isobel Crooks’ free kick bounced off the top of the crossbar, but the final action of the contest saw Essex denied a sixth in stoppage time, Turner being denied from the penalty spot.
Essex are next in action on Wednesday 14th February as Kent travel through the Dartford Crossing for a 7:45pm kick-off at Aveley FC’s Parkside home.
Essex: Emily Mackler (Southminster United), Lucy Ogden (Billericay Town), Charlotte Collins-Blaize (Billericay Town), Jamie Newstead (Colchester United), Nicole Farmer (Bowers & Pitsea), Charlotte Bryant (Lawford), Ellie Nicholls (Southend United), Holly Turner (Ipswich Town), Laura Bunton (Barking), Chloe Woolaway (Southend United), Whitney Locke (Bowers & Pitsea). Substitutes (repeated): Cate Jackson (Lawford), Millie Isherwood (Bowers & Pitsea), Lily Chapman (Billericay Town), Maya Lane (Billericay Town), Millie D’Ath (Billericay Town).
Army: Georgia Smith, Emily Ellis, Chantelle Dumbell, Yvette Kemp, Courtney Jones, Keavey Smith, Amie Barnard, Georgia Allen, Holly Keating, Alison Coucher, Emma Hutton. Substitutes (repeated): Rebecca Mason, Demi Allen, Amy Doyle, Isobel Crooks, Robyn Hall.