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Essex 1 Cambs 2

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Essex were hit by a second-half fightback on a bitterly cold night at Hornchurch’s Bridge Avenue ground.

Emma Eldridge and Sophie Hopkin netted crucial goals for the visitors, after Rebecca Hollocks had claimed a stunning opener for Kim Coster’s hosts.

In an entertaining encounter, the first opportunity fell the way of Cambridgeshire as Nuala Wayne side-footed over the bar after Essex goalkeeper Alex Baker pushed away a low cross.

Chances for Essex from two Jenny Brown-Wealls centres then led to both Hollocks and Nicola Carty seeing headers well saved by visiting stopper Verity Crook.

But the hosts did take the lead with 24 minutes played as Hollocks raced onto a pass fully 35 yards from goal before hitting a superb long-range strike into the top right-hand corner.

Cambs had a fine opportunity to level before the break when Laura Bright found herself one-on-one with Baker, only to be denied by a fine block.

But the visitors levelled eight minutes after the restart, with Eldridge getting on the end of a delivery to the far post before firing an angled effort into the opposite corner.

A terrific save from Crook kept Cambs on terms as Carty’s corner wasn’t fully cleared and Alex Shepherd’s stinging 20-yard volley was tipped over.

Hopkin was then denied firstly by Baker’s block, before Hannah Porter cleared a second effort off the line.

But the winning goal arrived on 63 minutes, with Taylor stabbing past Baker for Hopkin to fire into an unguarded net.

As Essex searched for an equaliser, Leigh Houlihan saw a dipping effort drop just over before Cambridge closed proceedings with Taylor’s low shot drifting just wide.

Essex: Alex Baker (West Ham United), Jenny Brown-Wealls (C & K Basildon), Carl Eagles (C & K Basildon), Laura Kendle (Chelmsford City), Hannah Porter (Colchester Town), Alex Shepherd (Colchester Town), Jacqueline Ball (Colchester United), Carman Joyce (Colchester United), Nicola Carty (C & K Basildon), Charlotte Twydell (Colchester United), Rebecca Hollocks (Silver End United). Substitutes (repeated): Layla Prior (Brentwood Town), Sophie Reed (West Ham United), Leigh Houlihan (West Ham United).

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