Billericay Town girls suffer Essex Cup final upset
PUBLISHED: 11:00 31 March 2017
Billericay Town 3 St Clere's 4
Holders Billericay Town suffered a shock defeat in the Essex Under-14 Girls’ Cup final against St Clere’s, who twice recovered from a two-goal deficit to triumph in an exciting clash at Burnham Ramblers.
The signs did not look good for the Stanford-le-Hope-based outfit when Robyn Moody gave Billericay the lead inside 60 seconds, and that advantage was doubled on 10 minutes by Beth Hutson.
But Leigha Bradding-Butler reduced the arrears and, although Moody netted again, late goals from Marnie Ray, Lucy Brewster and Lily Price completed a remarkable comeback.
“It’s unbelievable really,” said assistant manager Steve Price. “Billericay have gone unbeaten all season and no-one’s really given them a game, but we did run them close in a league game.
“Conditions played a big part in the final, but I said to the girls that, if we could put some more pressure on, we’d be in with a chance.”
Some spectators were still making their way to their viewing positions when Billericay moved ahead in the first minute as Moody, who went into the game with an enviable record of 65 goals in 43 appearances for the club, latched on to a through ball and stroked beyond Ray.
Midfielder Hutson then made it 2-0 with Town’s next attack as the winger robbed Amber Connelly of the ball 30 yards from goal and advanced one-on-one with Ray before slotting into the bottom left corner.
The Blues were hoping to retain the trophy won by Shaun Wyer’s team in 2016 and they had chances to extend their lead still further.
Walpole, who played in last year’s final, set up Leah Knight in the 16th minute, but her attempt was gathered by Ray, and Moody then lobbed inches wide from an acute angle.
At the opposite end, Jay Johnson failed to get a shot away when play opened up invitingly for her and Bradding-Butler could have tested Summer Sorrell, but her attempt from a Lucy Brewster cross lacked purchase.
The half closed with Harlie Constantine brilliantly tackling Hannah Humm and preventing her from troubling Ray.
Price revealed after the game that he was content to be trailing by just two goals at the interval and retained belief that his team could respond.
He added: “Our plan was to play with the wind in the first half because in the league game, when we got a goal, they did panic a little bit. That was the plan, but we lost the toss and we had it against us.”
And the coach was even happier having seen his team get right back into the game within five minutes of the restart as Ray, who had moved outfield for the second half, failed to connect with a teasing Emily Knight centre, but Bradding-Butler made no mistake as she rolled home Saffron Tucker’s raking pass to reduce the arrears.
“I said to the girls that 2-0 was not a bad score at half time so, if we could get an early goal and get ourselves back in the game, anything could happen, and it did,” Price added.
“If you put teams under pressure, even the better teams, it can make a difference. But we needed to get that third goal to make it 2-1; we did that and, from there on, we put pressure on them and got the result.”
What Price and his team did not anticipate was that Billericay would restore their two-goal lead within eight minutes.
Moody was the scorer, embarking on a superb left-wing run and dazzling a series of defenders before squeezing her finish between goalkeeper Jay Johnson and the left-hand upright.
But St Clere’s bounced back and, after Lucy Brewster had seen an attempt hacked off the line, they halved the deficit again in the 52nd minute, with Ray receiving the ball on the penalty spot and holding off a defender before dispatching a shot beyond Sorrell.
Within seconds, the underdogs were level and Brewster was responsible for the finish, sending a left-wing delivery arcing over Sorrell and in off the underside of the crossbar.
Essex League ‘A’ Division pacesetters Billericay were shell-shocked and St Clere’s continued to press hard for a winner in the closing stages.
Goalscorer Brewster was unfortunate not to put her team ahead when she galloped onto a right-wing cross and Sorrell palmed out her left-footed shot, but St Clere’s won the game with three minutes left when Price’s left-wing corner deceived the Billericay back line and crept inside the far post.
Billericay tried to get back on level terms during a nine-minute spell of injury time, but St Clere’s could have added further gloss to the scoreline in the closing stages as another Price corner was cleared off the line and Sorrell dived at the feet of Bradding-Butler to save.
The victory crowned a remarkable season for St Clere’s, which currently sees them in second place to Billericay in the league table and with a County Cup trophy sitting proudly in their clubhouse.
Price said: “In the first game of the season we had 10 players and we lost, but we have brought some girls in throughout the season.
“We had four girls out there today who had never kicked a football in a competitive game before this year, but we have some experienced ones as well and they’ve helped those who are coming through.
“To get to where they are, being second in the league and winning this competition, says it all.”
Billericay Town (Blues): Summer Sorrell, Maisie Donovan, Grace Greenway, Frankie Hendricks, Hannah Humm, Robyn Moody, Leah Knight, Beth Hutson, Emma Walpole, Charlotte Dance, Sadie Barrett. Substitutes (repeated): Gemma Foss, Lily Edards, Mya Turner.
St Clere’s: Marnie Ray, Harlie Constantine, Saffron Tucker, Jay Johnson, Amber Connelly, Lily Price, Lily Brewster, Lucy Brewster, Lucy Morgan, Leigha Bradding-Butler, Amaree Charles. Substitutes (repeated): Louisa Stokes, Louise Norman, Lily Bull, Emily Knight.