Clarets Women claimed the Essex County Women’s League Cup with a tremendous 3-0 win against Lawford Ladies in the Final.
Words By: Simon Horne
Sunday 22nd May saw the return of the Essex County Women’s League Cup final after 2 years of COVID.
After what seems like a long season, it was fitting that the two sides guaranteed to take the top spots in the league were paired against each other for this clash held at Runwell FC.
League leaders, Lawford (10 games played, 26 points, no losses) took on 2nd placed Chelmsford City Women (9 games played, 25 points, 0 losses) so someone’s undefeated streak was going to come to an end and an entertaining game looked to be on the cards.
Knowing each other well from previous campaigns, there was no way either side were going into this game less than 100% focused on the prize.
Both sides had their talismanic strikers (Daisy Canny and Bec Hollocks) unfortunately ruled out through injury, but that didn’t mean there weren’t goals to be found.
Lawford, playing in their sky blue and white stripes got the game underway and immediately looked to attack with a ball played wide to the left intended for Lindsey Morgan, but City right back Mia Brisley, was alert and managed to clear the ball to safety.
Both teams went looking to test each other early on and it was City who drew first blood after just 5 minutes.
A searching ball down the right saw youngster Kaci Crook get the better of left back Saffron Heffer and hit a crisp shot across Erin Hornby in the Lawford goal. Hornby managed to get hands to the shot but couldn’t hold it as Abi Woollvin’s lightning-quick reactions saw her steal in at the back post and tap home to give City the perfect start.
Lawford looked to get back in the game quickly but struggled to find a way through with City’s back line staying strong and the midfield pairing of Rosie Coe and Ash Holland snuffling out any real threat.
The ball continued to move from end to end and free kicks were awarded to both sides in the middle of the park as they battled for control.
City centre back Jess Loble fired in a trademark rocket from wide out on the left which evaded everyone but bounced kindly in front of Hornby to hold on to comfortably after 14 minutes.
Lawford had good spells of pressure, particularly through Alison Hindley, Anna Ryan and Morgan, which kept Claret’s Captain Gaby Freedman busy but she stuck resolutely to her job winning challenge after challenge.
Around the 18 minute mark, great work from Emma Rushen and Helen Alder found the ball drop at the feet of Holland 10 yards outside of the Lawford box.
As she shaped to hit it goal-ward, Lawford’s captain, Zoe Smith, flew out of the back line with a thundering challenge, taking the ball but leaving a bit on Holland who went down and appeared to be in discomfort.
The referee stopped play and then awarded a drop ball to City who were in possession at the time. The quick-thinking of Amy Vernon saw her hit the ball beyond the Lawford defence and Woollvin raced on to it, hesitating with her run, unsure of whether to go in on goal or not.
Fortunately, she decided to keep the move alive and fired across Hornby to double City’s lead, the goal standing as despite several Lawford protests no rule had been broken.
After a brief drinks break, Lawford came out stronger and managed some efforts on goal through Butler and Hindley but City’s keeper Hannah Streetley was equal to everything and made comfortable saves.
Lindsey Morgan came closest to pulling a goal back around the half hour mark with her shot from the left corner of the box narrowly going over the angle.
With minutes of the half remaining, a long clearance was chased by Woollvin on the left, who moved the ball into the centre of the park before baring down on Lawford’s goal.
As Hornby came out to close the angle, Woollvin moved left and then calmly rolled her shot into the bottom right corner to complete her hat trick and take her level with Lawford’s Canny at the top of the scoring charts (both on 18).
At 3-0 up, City knew they didn’t need to push as hard in the second half and with big games coming up this week they played more possession, stroking the ball around as Lawford needed to attack in an attempt to rescue the game.
Mid-way through the half and Lawford had an excellent opportunity to grab a goal as Ward raced clear down the left, having appeared to break the offside trap. However, Brisley was hot on her heels and made a perfectly timed sliding challenge to win the ball.
City dealt comfortably with most things thrown at them but a spell of over play could have cost them.
Chances were limited in this half but Woollvin remaine a thorn in Lawford’s side and was on the receiving end of some hefty challenges as looked to break free. Alder, Rushen and Murphy also found themselves in god positions but couldn’t find the final touches needed to extend City’s advantage.
With minutes of the game remaining, Lawford had their best chance to score as Morgan ‘s spin into the box enabled her to get a shot off but the big glove of Streetley was on hand to smother the shot and it was cleared to safety.
The full time whistle sounded and City were left celebrating their second cup triumph of the season.
Celebrations were cut short however, as a City player was taken ill and required immediate medical assistance and the intervention of an ambulance – we are pleased to report that everything is now fine and a full recovery is expected – thank you to everyone who helped and also to the swift arrival and intervention from the ambulance service.
“We knew today was going to be tough – playing Lawford always is, and having had games postponed against them this season through COVID and bad weather, we haven’t had the opportunity to see them play, though we know they’ve been watching us” said manager Simon Horne.
“To come out of this game with a convincing 3-0 win, in this heat, is remarkable and is testament to the hard work every one of these players puts in week after week to be the best in this league.
“I said before the game how proud we are of each and every player as people but they could make us more proud by lifting the trophy and that’s exactly what they did.”
With a cup double completed, attention now turns to the league, where 6 points from the final 9 will see City complete an astonishing treble and ECWFL clean sweep.
Next up is an away trip to Frontiers on Wednesday, followed by what will no doubt be a very tough double header at Lawford on Sunday.
Chelmsford City Women: Streetley, Brisley, Freedman (C), Loble, Vernon, Crook, Coe, Holland, Alder, Rushen, Woollvin, Richards, Burton, Murphy, Palmer.
Goals: Woollvin 3
Match Officials: Alp Yavuz, Peter Round, Graham Pavitt, Anthony Abbs