Thursday 14th April
Essex Women’s County Cup Final
Hot on the heels on one cup final comes the 2nd with a trip down to Essex for the Women’s County Cup showpiece event between fierce rivals, Billericay Town Women and Hashtag United Women.
A rivalry made all the keener by virtue of the fact the two Essex giants are vying for top spot in FAWNL South East Division One and with it promotion to tier 3 of the woman’s football pyramid. A position Hashtag United Women formerly C&K Basildon Ladies have tasted before coming very close to achieving promotion to what is now the FAWSL Championship. Along with Billericay Town Women the pair have dominated the county cup in recent seasons. Have been the top two in FAWNL South East Division One all season Hashtag United Women leading the way as Billericay play catch up having been involved in the FA Women’s Cup. Their season finished though Hashtag have 62 points winning 20 of their 24 league matches. Billericay with 2 games in left and a 5 point gap to close down know what they have to do, a 4-0 win away to Cambridge City Ladies closing the gap to just 2 points, know victory in their final home game against mid-table London Seaward FC with guarantee the title.
This evening though it’s all about the County Cup, Billericay the holders the final missing from the previous two seasons because of the Covid pandemic the rivalry continues with Hashtag United Women gunning for their 1st ever county cup success. Billericay pushing Hashtag all the way in the race for the league title have lost just one league game all season with striker Zoe Rushen having an incredible season in front of goal with 28 scored so far from 31 appearances accounting for over 30% of Billericay’s goals. Saw them on the opening day of the season winning 8-0 away to Norwich and all accounts have been the toughest opponents others have played all season.
Equally strong at the top of the table are Hashtag United Women. Basildon’s merger with Hashtag United reviving the clubs fortunes after they were relegated to South East Division One. Well looked after with strong media support for the side have been out in front for much of the season. Scoring 83 goals in their 24 league matches 10 clear of 2nd placed Billericay with the best defensive record too shared with 3rd placed AFC Wimbledon with 14 goals conceded. Malika Apindia, Hashtag’s top scorer netting 21 goals from 27 appearances with Kelly Wealthall and Sasha Adamson on 13 and 12 respectfully.
Road to the Final
Along with fellow FAWNL South East Division One side, Harlow Town Ladies and Bowers & Pitsea Ladies of the ERWFL Premier Division both sides entered the competition the quarter final stage. Billericay drawn away to Hashtag United Women’s Reserve side, goals from Sam Pittuck, Ruby Sealey, Mia Lockett and Zoe Rushen securing a 4-0 win. Hashtag themselves at home to ERWFL Division One South promotion hopeful’s Leigh Ramblers Ladies were also comfortable winners progressing with a 5-0 result.
Both sides strong too in the last 4 of the competition. Billericay at home to Bowers & Pitsea Ladies, Rebecca May on target with a hat-trick. A brace each for Shannon Drewe and Logan O’Shea with Karissa Doo and Sam Pittuck also on target in a 9-2 win. Hashtag were away to Harlow Town Ladies booking their spot in the final with a 6-2 win.
Aveley FC’s, Parkside Stadium the venue for the final and soon to become the home of Hashtag United Women. A new build, featuring a state of the art building beside the 3G playing surface, housing a large bar area on the ground floor, hospitality above with large windows giving a great view of the action seating in front of the clubhouse with another covered stand opposite, viewing all round a new scoreboard in one corner and a kitchen serving a variety of hot food and drink, much needed after a 2 hour drive from Norfolk to get here. A very warm day staying pleasant for the game again mild and calm. A hugely anticipated game a good crowd in attendance.
Billericay Town Women starting XI- Alex baker (C), Kerry Stimson, Lucy Jones, Ellie Jeffkins, Courtney Lumley, Jay Blackie, Georgie Moreton, Logan O’Shea, Shannon Drewe, Zoe Rushen & Ruby Sealey. Subs – Rebecca May, Amber Gaylor, Maddie Reynolds, Sam Pittuck and Casey Iron.
Hashtag United Women starting XI – Imogen Riches, Maddie Thomas, Katherine Nutman, Grace Gillard (C), Hayley West, Sophie Kelly, Gemma Baker Sasha Adamson, Emma Samways, Kelly Wealthall, Malika Apindia. Subs – Eva Carvahlo, Abbey Davies, Rebecca Sargent, Kelsey Smith & Nikita Whinnett.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Despite Aveley soon to be their home ground Hashtag are the ‘away’ side this evening both sides in their away colours too with Billericay wearing red shirts and socks with black shorts. Hashtag wearing white shirts with black sleeves, black shorts and white socks. It’s Billericay to get the final underway kicking off the 1st half the ball immediately charged down inside the centre circle. Contested back ad forth before Hashtag get it out to the right side with attacker Malika Apindia giving chase, Lucy Jones able to see it out for a Billericay goal kick.
A high tempo start both sides in to close the ball down, Zoe Rushen moving right as the ball in sent on from the middle, Katherine Nutman defending for Hashtag seeing the ball go for a throw in. Billericay’s Georgie Moreton tackling in the middle the ball lifted out to Shannon Drewe out on the left taking the ball to the by-line plays in a cross to the near post, Hashtag captain, Grace Gillard arriving to block deflecting the ball behind for a corner kick, Billericay appealing for a handball but nothing doing. The corner curled in to the top of the area Ellie Jeffkins rushing in unopposed can’t quite get her head on the ball as it is deflected back to Hashtag goalkeeper, Imogen Riches beyond her.
Billericay winning a free-kick out wide right put in from deep, Hashtag’s Sophie Kelly back to defend heading it clear of the area. The ball pinging around in the middle no one allowed to settle Billericay lift it forwards up for Rushen right of the D, the defender marking her clearing the ball as Rushen goes down hurt in the challenge, again Billericay appeal but no penalty. Rushen needing treatment a pause in play but is okay to continue. Play resuming Hashtag moving the ball through the middle on for Apindia breaking away to the right, Jones staying with her to send the ball back to goalkeeper and captain Alex Baker to clear.
Is tense, cagey almost as both sides battle for possession in quickly to close each other down, play broken up as a result. Attacker, Ruby Sealey seeing the ball into her feet 30 yards out releasing Drewe on the left racing on to the corner wrapping her foot around the ball a cross swung into the six yard box headed clear by Gillard. Billericay seeing more of the ball in the final 3rd in the opening 10 minutes. Hashtag attacking on the left get into a crossing position the ball whipped in across the area, Jones defending the ball out for a corner kick. Attacked at the near post turned on across the face of goal goes out beyond the far post for a goal kick.
Emma Samways moving out right for Hashtag with a dummy as the ball is played into her then reverses to send the ball on up the line for Apindia, Jones again able the shield the ball out for a goalkick. The delivery put in centrally, Baker rising to knock it down into the ground, before Billericay scramble it away. Rushen getting the ball into her feet coming inside from the right driving for the area, a strong tackle from Gillard halting her attack. Hashtag looking dangerous n the counter attack as the ball is fired up to Apindia on for Samways, Courtney Lumley defending a corner conceded. Taken short from the left blocked and then cleared.
The game livening up as both sides get forwards with purpose Rushen with a back heel on the left corner of the box on for Drewe down the line, Nutman defending for Hashtag seen out for a goal kick. Jay Blackie surging on from midfield is brought down inside the d but again Billericay appeals are waved away. Baker with a hasty clearance as the back pass is threatened from a throw on the left as Samways rushes in. Gillard has a long throw in her arsenal up on the pitch right side headed on the attempted hook shot at the far post is missed.
Moreton breaks on from the middle for Billericay this time the foul is given as she is brought down heavily outside the D to the right of goal. Close to the edge of the box Rushen’s attempt to give herself an extra yard further back upsetting the Hashtag fans the referee seeing it’s taken from the correct position, Rushen smashes her shot into the wall then slices the rebound wide as it comes flying back to her. Neither side allowed any rhythm isn’t pretty, certainly committed Hashtag with a vocal support. Jeffkins intercepting as Gemma Baker looks to put Apindia away through the middle.
Jones at left back tackling Samways as she attempts to shift the ball in behind her on the right. Billericay attack Moreton coming to the right Rushen and Drewe ahead of her, the latter wide cutting the ball into Rushen inside the area left corner tries to pick out Sealey who fouls Nutman as she goes to attack the ball, Hashtag with the free-kick. Half an hour played the game opening up as both sides get forwards with attacking intent. Moreton on the ball forwards for Rushen moving left into the area, Nutman intercepting.
Sasha Adamson on the right pushing on with Samways, Jones challenging the ball out for a throw. Hashtag with a strong appeal for a penalty as the ball is cleared inside the Billericay box. The ball fizzed into Apindia from the left central top of the D, is falling as she spins attempting to hit it on the turn sends her effort off target. Hashtag putting pressure on Billericay at the back as they linger on the ball outside the area put back to Baker who picks it up appeals again. Passion rising.
Drewe winning the ball high on Billerica’s left inside for Rushen top of the area left plays it across looking for Sealey right of the D, Kelly back to win for Hashtag cleared to the right a strike sent back in low in low on the angle, Imogen Riches comfortable down to claim in the Hashtag goal. No sooner has one goalkeeper claimed the ball then Brooks up the other end is called into action as Hayley West on the left fires a strike in low on the angle across goal, Brooks down sharply getting a touch to turn it wide beyond the far post for a corner on the right.
Hashtag are getting more of the ball in Billericay’s half now pressing the back line a couple of long range strikes from the left blocked. A corner from the left for Hashtag crossed in Jeffkins winning it for Billericay. Adamson left inside for Apindia sends it out to the right for Samways her attempted cross cut out by Jones behind for a corner. The corner successfully defended Billericay launch a counter attack, Sealey bringing it on from halfway has Rushen going with her gives her the ball she sends it on for Moreton racing on right to the top of the box, Adamson getting the tackle in the ball deflected away. Moreton down needing treatment but is okay to play on.
Remains a tense affair, the pendulum swinging in Hashtag’s favour towards the end of the 1st half. Thomas with a throw on the left for Hashtag is knocked on into the area, West inside charging in seeing her effort blocked then cleared. Apindia is a handful up top strong in possession controls the ball with her head outside the area looks to set up Baker, Lumley defends for Billericay. Moreton advancing on the ball moves left on for Sealey in attack, Nutman though with a solid defensive clearance to stop the threat for Hashtag. Moreton out to Sealey again right side her cross cut out by Baker tracking back.
Hashtag looking to break on the left Stimson with the foul on halfway, no advantage for Hashtag play brought back for the free-kick as Stimson goes into the book. The free-kick on halfway headed on by Apindia inside the box at the near post across the six yard box, a snap shot at the far post charged down going for a corner. Into the closing seconds of the 1st half the corner up the line the cross in charged down, Thomas back on the ball to put inside near side Apindia controlling with her head cushioning the ball down hitting it on the spin her shot held by Brooks in the Billericay goal.
Half-time Billericay Town Women 0-0 Hashtag United Women
Goalless at the break, is certainly tense a game neither wants to lose. Both side closing the other down. Billericay with the narrow advantage early on getting forwards. Hashtag strong in defence letting nothing through gaining momentum towards the end of the half efforts blocked from outside the box, Brooks called into action needing to put the ball wide from a West effort. If there are any clues to which way it might you 2nd half then I’ve missed them. Beautifully poised for the 2nd half.
A change at the start of the 2nd half for Billericay, Amber Gaylor coming on for Drewe to join the attack. Hashtag to get the 2nd 45 underway. Wealthall immediately winning Hashtag a throw high on the left. Gillard up with her long throw into the area looking for Apindia, cleared by Stimson for Billericay. Gaylor putting the ball on for Rushen up top the ball defended by Gillard. Fouls a feature of the game a little niggle between the sides more born out of passion than anything else and quickly brought under control when tempers flare.
Blackie into an advanced position winning a corner as Billericay look to press Hashtag back at the start of the 2nd half. Lumley at one end for Billericay and Nutman at the other with last ditch tackles as each side play the ball long. Gaylor plays the ball on for O’Shea as she races forwards her effort blocked. Gaylor exchanging passes with Rushen on the right as Billericay advance, Gaylor going on to strike the ball goalwards from the angle well held by Riches in the Hashtag goal.
GOAL! 10 minutes gone in the 2nd half and the deadlock is finally broken, Hashtag put Wealthall in on the left to the top of the area looks to play it inside with Adamson closing in, Stimson diving in to challenge can only help the ball on into Adamson’s pat as she takes it on into the area closing in on goal and sends it across the falling Brooks into the bottom corner 1-0.
Hashtag pressing the ball from the restart looking to go after Billericay, the shot from Samways tame however safely claimed by Brooks. The goal putting a spring into Hashtag’s step, Billericay visibly frustrated as passes go astray. West with a good tackle stopping Sealey advancing with the ball as she looks to travel from halfway. A change for Hashtag as they bring on Nikita Whinnett on the hour for Wealthall who has been struggling since the goal. Jeffkins putting the ball forwards picking out Gaylor to the left of the area her shot swung in held by Riches.
Blackie shown a yellow card from a strong tackle out wide in the corner on the left Hashtag with the set-piece played into the six yard box, it’s Blackie who wins the header to clear the danger. A hand ball spotted by the referee in the middle giving Billericay a free-kick, Jeffkins over it takes on the long distance shot, Riches not troubled as she moves wide of her goal to catch the ball. moving into the final 20 minutes Billericay making a tactical change bringing off a defender, Stimson at full back for attacker, Sam Pittuck.
Pressing the ball Moreton into Rushen left side 20 yards out getting a shot away her attempt caught by Riches. Billericay pressing on as they look to get a goal themselves. Gillard up the field to take another long throw, balls running out as they are cleared out of the ground, Jeffkins with a firm head to put the ball clear of the area for Billericay, counter quickly the move ending as Rushen 20 yards out slices her attempt wide as she is rapidly closed down.
GOAL! 15 minutes to go and Billericay find the leveller and it’s a well struck effort from Moreton too! Attacking on the left Gaylor deep puts it back to the full back to lift a high ball in near post Rushen up with a defender the ball coming off both out to the top of the area, Moreton moving across the D, controlling it on her chest and catching it sweetly to send it past the diving keeper 1-1.
No sooner have Billericay found the equalising goal then Hashtag get on the offensive and come close to retaking the lead Apindia picking up the ball on halfway driving forwards through the middle drifting right letting fly from all of 25 yards out, Brooks is beaten doesn’t move the ball wide of her, turns to see it come off the base of her left post and careen across the face of her goal, Whinnett after it with Lumley the ball out of play.
Apindia out right twisting and turning her marker with a clever back heel taking the ball to the by-line her cross laid back into the box cut out and cleared. West tracking back into the box tracking back with Rushen as Moreton attempts to puck her out from the right.
GOAL! Hashtag retaking the lead with 8 minutes left to play scoring with a well worked goal started and finished by Baker. On the ball bringing it on through the middle sends it on for Apindia who in turn finds Davies advancing on the left flank her cross squared into the area cut out the loose ball skipping up for Baker at the top of the D, bringing it down off her chest and catches it superbly on the volley to rifle her strike in off the crossbar 2-1.
Moreton down with a knock on the far side of the pitch is replaced by Rebecca May with 5 minutes left to play. Not long for Hashtag to hold out or Billericay to find a 2nd leveller. Pressing the ball Hashtag gaining a throw high on the right, Gillard up to take the ball cleared at the near post by Lumley comes straight to West 25 yards out right of the D she shot fired back in held by the keeper.
The clock ticking own Billericay with players forwards as they get a free-kick inside the Hashtag half the ball lofted into the area the keeper doesn’t get hold of it, dropping down outside the box, two efforts are charged down in quick succession as Hashtag defend for their lives. The counter on Apindia on for Whinnett moving left Lumley closing in tackling for Billericay. Not long left am surrounded by Hashtag fans eager for the final whistle to blow. A few cool heads needed another ball cleaned out of the ground. That’s it the whistle blows and Hashtag players and coaching staff rush onto the pitch to celebrate as they win the County Cup.
Full time Billericay Town Women 1-2 Hashtag United Women
A massive 578 fans in attendance watching this evenings final a great game between to fierce rivals. Certainly tense and cagey with neither wanting to give anything away. Spirited the 2nd half seeing 3 well taken goals scored Gemma Baker with the all important winning strike for Hashtag United Women, their first trophy, would dearly love a 2nd but that one remains Billericay’s to lose with one final league game to play in a fortnights time and despite losing the final will now be focused solely on London Seaward FC. Quality finishers on both sides could have gone either way in the end committed performances from both sides this is a rivalry that is set to continue and for Essex that is only a boon.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this evening’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. This was a contest between two committed sides who didn’t want to be beaten. Credit to all involved. Lucy Jones at the back with a number of critical challenges for Billericay. Zoe Rushen their main threat in attack battling for possession setting up chances for herself and her teammates. Georgie Moreton outstanding in the middle taking the ball on and getting into some great positions a great strike to level the scores. For Hashtag, their captain Grace Gillard led by example at the back cutting out a number of crosses and winning the ball. Gemma Baker with a superb finish to win the game. The award though goes to attacker Malika Apindia carrying a constant threat up front all game whether running at the defence or getting hold of the ball in an around the box unlucky not to have a goal herself.
Congratulations to Hashtag United Women on winning this season’s Essex Women’s County Cup.
A great game to match down at Aveley I do like that ground, so Hashtag might well see me again next season. I don’t miss the M25 even after 2 and a half seasons still I got home in the end. My thanks to everyone at Aveley for there help this evening. Nicky Hayes from Billericay for letting me use his photo’s so to Essex FA and hopefully will add a few more from Hashtag United Women soon. Two cup finals in two days I’m off for a rest now… until Sunday at least this is the best part of the football season after all.
by Darren Gilham