April 20th, 2019
Written by Leigh @beakster99 ; All photos provided Courtesy @nickyhayesphoto
Billericay Ladies wrote a new chapter in the history of the club with a 4-0 win over C&K Basildon to secure the team’s first ever Essex County Cup win on Thursday night. An early penalty by Danica Dougal set the pace before Basildon missed a spot-kick of their own and incurred a first half red card. Further Billericay goals from Sam Pittuck, Esme Lancaster, and Zoe Rushen ensured Kim Coster’s Ladies side were comfortable victors in front of a bumper crowd.
On a sunny, but chilly, evening, at the Len Salmon stadium, home of newly crowned Isthmian League North Champions, Bowers & Pitsea, Billericay Ladies and C&K Basildon met in the County Final for the third time in five years. On previous occasions, the Basildon side had triumphed convincingly 7-1 back in 2015 but faced a tougher test in 2017 with extra-time being required for a 3-2 win. With a record equalling five final wins accumulated in only the past six years, Basildon had coveted setting their own benchmark by moving ahead of five times County Cup winners, Chelmsford Ladies.
Firmly established as the leading women’s side in the area under former Southend United manager, Steve Tilson, Basildon were promoted to the third tier of Women’s football in 2014/15. After finishing in a highest ever position of 2ndin the FAWNL (Football Association Women’s National League) Southern Premier in 2017/18, changes at all levels during the summer of 2018 saw Tilson depart the club. With the majority of Basildon’s playing staff moving on, this season has been a challenge with the team struggling at the bottom of the League. With relegation soon to become a reality, Basildon will have the opportunity to renew rivalries with fourth tier neighbours, Billericay, who compete in the FAWNL South East League Division One.
Under the stewardship of Coster, now with over 17 years of service as the Ladies manager, Billericay have made great strides in recent years. Promoted last year to the FAWNL for the first time, skipper, Lindsey Morgan, marauding full-back, Lucy Jones, defender Courtney Lumley and utility player, Nicole Farmer all returned after a successful campaign. To improve the quality of the squad, and ensure competitiveness at the higher level, Zoe Rushen, Jay Blackie, Karissa Rodney, and centre-back Danica Dougal were all summer signings from C&K Basildon. Striker Sam Pittuck also dropped down one division to sign from Charlton Ladies.
Billericay made one change to the team that had beaten Cambridge Ladies 2-1 in the League fixture the previous week-end. Lumley came into the back four in place of Farmer. C&K Basildon made four changes to the line-up that were defeated 3-1 in the League at QPR Ladies. With U-18 debutants, Charlotte Bolland and Tessa O’Connor, stepping aside, in came goal-keeper Sarah Walker and midfielder, Molly Bowness. At right back, Grace Gillard started ahead of Danielle Sillitoe and midfielder, Sophie Rhodes, was favoured over Maddie Thomas – both dropping to the bench.
A swift start saw both sides threaten with Billericay’s Blackie, who was outstanding in a creative midfield role, play a neat through ball to Pittuck who was immediately halted by an illegal challenge. Rushen’s free kick counted as the first accurate shot on goal but was comfortably fielded by Walker. In response, Basildon’s centre-forward, Holly Turner linked up well with Whitehead to fire a strike that was repelled by Blues goalkeeper, Baker. Moments later, Turner threatened once again, but was unable to get a clean strike on her attempted volley, which sailed over the crossbar.
Billericay took the lead in the 10thminute through a Dougal spot-kick. Midfielder, Blackie, was inevitably involved in the build-up as she spread play wide, finding right winger, Esme Lancaster. Defending the immediate cross, Basildon left back Jess Horn could only send the ball spiralling into the air as she endeavoured to clear the danger. Ever alert, Rushen latched on to the opportunity, positioning herself between the defender and the dropping ball, drawing the foul from Horn. A composed Dougal dispatched the resulting penalty, side-footing expertly into the top left corner.
Served by Blackie, Pittuck almost made it even worse for Basildon on 12 minutes as she chased a through ball. Seeing the goalkeeper off her line, the striker’s delicate lob from 25 yards landed on the roof of the net. In response, the third tier side remained dangerous and Rhodes next fired hurriedly wide after receiving a good ball from Horn.
As the game progressed, Billericay began to build on their strong start by carving out the better chances. Basildon, speedy on the break, ensured for a competitive opening period. With swift counters a clear tactic, Billericay’s Morgan rolled back the years with her energy to track back diligently and help out the defence to snuff out danger.
Basildon had a golden chance to haul themselves back into the game on 23 minutes as Billericay conceded a penalty after Jones was adjudged to have brought down an opposing player. Turner stepped up to take responsibility but, in seeking to emulate earlier scorer, Dougal, she miscalculated and sent the ball sailing over the bar. With action for goalkeepers at a premium, it proved to be a costly miss.
In a competitive game, nobody shirked a tackle on the artificial surface with a resounding thud generated after one 50/50 challenge between Billericay’s Lancaster and Basildon’s midfield enforcer, Mollie Debell. Rushen, always looking to turn and run at goal, was a particular target, frequently sowing panic in the opposition defence and earning a number of free-kicks when halted illegally. On 27 minutes, a challenge on Rushen in the Basildon penalty area could easily have been a penalty but was not awarded by the referee, who officiated well on the night and got the key decisions correct.
Billericay, always looking to work the ball wide and use considerable pace at their disposal on the flanks, soon had Lancaster increasingly involved in proceedings as a threat on the right side. One such incursion led to the 33rdminute corner that was thundered against the crossbar by a leaping Blackie from just outside the six yard box. Attack turned to defence, as Basildon broke quickly, with the Blues indebted to Stimson for a tactical foul on halfway that halted opposition momentum.
On 36 minutes, a controversial incident would, however, have fateful consequences for Basildon as during the delay for the awarding of the free-kick after a foul on the half-way line, Debell’s opinion was expressed too vociferously, and certainly too industrially, incurring the displeasure of the official. A straight red followed for Debell, who left the field visibly upset and under the supervision of her team-mates, leaving Basildon with a serious disadvantage.
Billericay continued to press with Pittuck intelligently dropping slightly deeper into midfield to secure possession of the ball and link with Rushen. The ex-Charlton striker was nonetheless well advanced to receive the laser guided pass from Blackie through which she scored the second goal on the stroke of half-time. Having spent six years as a centre-back at her previous club, one can only marvel at her achievements as a striker as she latched onto the ball, rounded the goalkeeper, and slid home a clinical finish from a tight angle to look every inch a seasoned front player.
With numerical supremacy, and the comfort of a two-goal cushion, Billericay began the second half in confident fashion. Stimson, who had impressed with her ability to carry the ball long distances on mazy runs, was at the start, and the end, of the first significant chance after the break. On 57 minutes, she linked with Blackie who released Pittuck on the left side. Making ground, Stimson arrived in the centre in good time but could not quite convert the pull-back from her team-mate.
Stimson would not be denied and turned creator for the third Billericay goal on 62 minutes. Bursting down the left side, she evaded her marker to rifle in a shot that was parried by Walker back into play. Rushen, ready to poach was denied by a Gillard tackle, which saw the ball diverted to the waiting Lancaster at the far post. Making no mistake, the right winger emphatically smashed the ball home to register the goal that effectively sealed the result of the match.
There would be no let up from the Billericay team as a fourth goal arrived straight from the kick-off. That it should be from Rushen, the former C&K Basildon captain and four times winner of the County Cup in opposition colours, rounded off the night perfectly. An all action performance once again from Billericay’s top scorer was capped by a goal of which Mr Messi would have been proud. Pressing high, Rushen robbed Gillard of the ball and, from 30 yards, send a sumptuous lob over Walker and into the top corner. Emphasizing the final location of the strike in her celebrations, Rushen was engulfed by her joyful team-mates who were on their way to make history.
The fourth goal provided the opportunity for Blues substitutions with, Rodney, coming on to feature in her sixth County Cup final and Karen Stephanou completing a remarkable come-back after suffering a two year absence from the game due to a serious knee injury. Back fit and playing from December 2018, Stephanou brought a lively presence to the left side and frequently advanced into forward areas to provide support to the strikers in search of a fifth goal.
Although no further goals followed, Dougal can consider herself unlucky as the width of the post denied her registering a second strike in the 83rdminute. Arriving at the far post, Dougal’s expertly executed volley flew towards goal but bounced back out with the goalkeeper beaten. Overall, energy levels remained high with Jones bursting forward late in the game as frequently as she had done all match. Basildon threats were sporadic but Lumley remained especially vigilant and was always quick to close down danger and contribute to counter- attacks linking well with her midfield.
With no further incident, Billericay were able to manage out the remainder of the match and secure a well-deserved victory. With a highly successful League campaign, likely to end in a 2ndplace finish, and a County Cup in the trophy cabinet, there is every sign that a shift in the powerbase of Women’s football locally is taking place towards Billericay.
The future looks bright for the Billericay Town Ladies team under the experienced leadership of Coster. Off the pitch, the team have a committed sponsor in business management consultancy, iCore Ltd, with Executive Director, Greg Lake, an enthusiastic supporter of Women’s football and regular attendee of matches. Club support from Town is also strong both in terms of resources provided and fan participation reflected by a record final crowd and growing League attendances.
@btfcliveradio PLAYER RATINGS (BILLERICAY LADIES Starting X1)
ALEX BAKER, Goalkeeper 7
Only moderately employed but stayed alert to advance quickly off her line to avert danger. Excellent distribution and ensured that the game flowed from re-starts.
COURTNEY LUMLEY, Defence 7
Excellent positional sense and confident enough to leave her position to cover for team-mates. Vital in snuffing out danger when Basildon launched counter-attacks.
DANICA DOUGAL, Defender 8
Commanding presence in the air at the back and always eager to get forward. Nerveless penalty to break the deadlock and almost scored with a header against the post late on.
LAKEN DUCHAR-CLARK, Defender 7
Comfortable advancing with the ball out of defence and made some important clearances. Physically strong in the tackle and gave as good as she got in a couple of fierce contests.
LUCY JONES, Defender 7
Incredible energy covering a vast amount of ground on the left side. Vital tackles and interceptions and still bursting forward with 10 minutes remaining. Good set piece delivery.
ESME LANCASTER, Winger 8
Drove forward on the right side regularly to set up dangerous attacks. Competed well physically and quick to get into the penalty area. On hand to score the third goal.
LINDSEY MORGAN, Defensive Midfield 8
Set a captain’s example combining a disciplined tracking of runners with getting forward to support attacks. Couple of shots charged down. There’s a few more years left in the tank.
KERRY STIMSON, Midfield 8
Superb ability to carry the ball long distances and beat players. A constant nuisance and lung bursting run set up third killer goal. Good defensive discipline shows she has both sides to her game.
JAY BLACKIE, Midfield 9 ***PLAYER OF THE MATCH***
The “difference-maker” especially on first half display. Pulled strings in midfield, constant supply of defence splitting passes, & great assist for Pittuck’s goal. Almost crowned a fantastic display with a goal, striking the crossbar with a header. Matched Basildon for physicality.
ZOE RUSHEN, Striker 9
Always positive and a constant goal threat. Earnt the penalty with intelligent movement and frightened the Basildon defence enough to secure regular fouls. Outstanding individual goal.
SAM PITTUCK, Striker 8
Linked play well and intelligent movement knowing when to drop deep or move wide. A creative force in advanced areas, she took her goal impressively with a clinical striker’s finish.
Billericay Town Ladies
30 Alex Baker 2. Laken Duchar-Clark (16. Nicole Farmer, ’58) 3. Esme Lancaster (’70 Karen Stephanou, ’70) 4. Lucy Jones 6. Courtney Lumley 8. Lindsey Morgan 12. Sam Pittuck 13. Zoe Rushen 14. Jay Blackie 15. Danica Dougal 21. Kerry Stimson (18. Karisa Rodney, ’65)
Subs Not Used: 10. Sophie Vale 1. Gemma Crowe, GK
Goals:’10 Dougal (pen); ’45 Pittuck; ’62 Lancaster; ’63 Rushen
C& K Basildon Ladies
1 Sarah Walker 2. Grace Gillard 3. Tilly Deacon (25. Maddie Thomas, ’46) 4. Molly Bowness 5. Mollie Debell 6. Alex Bailess 8. Sophie Rhodes 9. Holly Turner 11. Gemma Abella 15. Jess Horn (18. Danielle Sillitoe, ’46) 19. Katie Whitehead (14. Courtney Clarke, ’65)
Subs Not Used: 7. Sophie Spencer-Webb 10. Jodie Osborne
Attendance: 578 (Ladies County Cup Final Record)