Billericay Town Ladies – 3
Luton Town Ladies – 1
(after extra time – score at ninety minutes 1-1)
Luton Town ladies were beaten in extra time on Sunday in the SSE Women’s FA Cup at Billericay Town, but did take their high flying hosts all the way inside the ninety to take the game into an additional thirty minutes where they went behind to a wonder strike before a late third sealed the game with some very tired legs unable to halt the run of Blues skipper Jay Blackie. A healthy crowd at the impressive AGP Arena saw the visitor’s take the lead after soaking up almost sixty minutes of pressure when Aurora Ryan chased down a back pass that was never reaching Billericay keeper Alex Baker, but the lead lasted just six minutes as Karen Steffanou equalised and the game drifted out to stalemate, but the home side found the goals in added time to proceed.
The Essex side had the majority of possession early on, a fifth minute cross from their right saw captain Blackie fire wide of Luton keeper Kezia Hassall’s right hand post, followed closely by Zoe Rushen & Amy Nash combining well in the corner to square to Lindsey Morgan who lifted high over the top. The visitor’s first chance saw a corner swung in by Zara Carroll met by Erica Byron who headed over, straight back up the other end a cross intended for Nash was brilliantly blocked by skipper Rachel Carter allowing Hassall to pounce on the stunned ball.
She was soon back in action having to dive to her right to push a fierce drive from Rushen away for a corner, Billericay looked almost certain to score when Georgia Box dinked a looping cross into the back post where a defender hesitated allowing Rushen to win the header but the ball sat in the mud in the six yard box giving Hassall the chance to simply pick up. The best chance of the half came seven minutes before the break when a superb cross from Lucy Jones found Rushen but her deft side footed effort didn’t have enough contact and she just helped it on its way out to safety.
There was still time for a pass through the Luton backline that saw Box inches away from opening the scoring, Rushen then curled a shot over from the eighteen yard line. The Bedfordshire side were almost gifted an opener in the final minute when a poor back pass saw Dionne Manning have a clear sight of goal, it seemed to take a moment for the striker to realise the opportunity presented to her but she advanced a yard ahead of firing straight at Baker. H/T: 0-0
The first effort after the break saw Morgan from the edge of the box fire wide, and Blackie receiving possession in midfield drove forward ten yards before shooting straight into the gloves of Hassall, the keeper then had to dive bravely at the feet of Morgan just as the home skipper looked odds on to connect with a cross from the right. A free kick to Luton saw Carroll lift the ball into the penalty area where Ryan got a brilliant header in that Baker had to gather with both hands underneath the top corner of her goal frame, then somewhat unexpectedly the away side took the lead on fifty-eight minutes.
A back pass from the Billericay left back did not have enough power on it and despite Baker advancing Ryan was down her throat in a flash, the keeper attempted to clear but the ball rebounded off the attacking player towards the empty goal where she ran on to fire home. Luton were lifted by the break through and looked for more, Manning slipped a ball through for Olivia Abraham and as she lined up to shoot a great sliding tackle came in and the chance was gone, then on sixty-four minutes the hosts equalised.
A Billericay attack wasn’t cleared allowing Nash to lift a hopeful ball over her head and as a defender tried to clear it fell nicely for Steffanou to hit it with the outside of her left boot past the despairing dive of Hassall into the far bottom corner. Luton tried again to regain the lead when Jess McKay tried her luck from twenty-five yards but it was always wide of the right hand post, whilst at the opposite end a pull back to Danica Dougal saw her blaze high over the top, a free kick then to the home side on the wing was floated across the box where it eluded everyone in orange but two blue shirts running in couldn’t quite get to it leaving it to bounce harmlessly away.
Amy Summerfield fed a ball wide to McKay who then curled inches wide of Baker’s far post, moments later a carbon copy of the opener almost gave the hosts the lead, a short back pass allowed Nancy Butler to nip in and Hassall’s clearance cannoned off the substitute, she went wide to collect before firing back across the open goal mouth and wide, and a counter attack from a Luton breakdown saw a pass slid through for Rushen to hit first time over the keeper which brushed the top of the netting as it cleared the crossbar.
A free kick saw Carroll clear the blue defensive line but Baker was behind it all the way and in the dying minutes Lucy Jones sent Morgan away down field however she was inches from connecting but Hassall was out to gather quickly, and a corner in added time almost saw the visitor’s snatch it when Byron headed over at the back post. F/T: 1-1
Two minutes into extra time Rushen drove forward from midfield before shooting over the Luton bar, a cross then cleared by their defence fell to Nash who had time to control ahead of flashing across goal and wide of the far upright, and a great move that saw Butler in between the orange centre halves deserved more than striking the woodwork although a raised flag would have denied anyway, whilst Manning saw a shot deflect off a blue sock for a corner at the opposite end.
Eleven minutes into extra time Billericay took the lead for the first time, hesitation in the away defence allowed Butler to find recently introduced Broghan Kelly who first time from twenty yards fired into the top corner giving Hassall no chance whatsoever. The visitor’s tried to get back in the game, McKay drove forward twenty yards but fired wide, Manning then slipped a delightful pass through for McKay who toe poked inches wide.
After the break a corner to the home side was headed narrowly wide by Dougal from close range, Kelly then fed to the left of the area flashed a shot a couple of yards wide of the back stick, then with three minutes left the tie was sealed when a Luton attack broke down and the ball played up to Butler who sent Blackie bearing down on goal, evading a tired looking challenge she poked past Hassall to confirm the win. F/T: 3-1
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