Sunday, 3 January 2016

Match Report - Billericay Town Ladies v Acle United Ladies

  Let me start off by wishing your all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2016. Just 3 days into the year and I'm rearing to go again watch and support women's football. Missed just the one Sunday where there wasn't a game, has felt like an age. Starting the year with a trip down to Essex, a match from the Eastern Region Women's Premier Division with 2nd placed Billericay Town Ladies hosting Acle United Ladies.

  Billericay Town Ladies are one of the favourites to win the league this season and started very well leading the pack early on were unbeaten in their opening 7 matches getting games in when others didn't. Two back to back defeats at the start of November allowed another unbeaten side with a 100% win record Stevenage Ladies to take over the lead. Stevenage Ladies lost their unbeaten record too in December allowing Billericay Town Ladies to close the gap to just 2 points going into 2016, both have a healthy points advantage over the sides below and with Stevenage Ladies match against AFC Dunstable Ladies falling foul of the weather they had the chance to retake the lead today.

  Acle United Ladies will be happy just to get a game under their belts haven't played a league match since the 1st November last year and have played just one match overall since then. Just the 6 matches played in the league have some catching up to do hard to judge their form with 2 won, 2 draws and 2 defeats. In 7th place in the ERWFL Premier Division have a new manager in charge of the ladies team this season, Bradley Mingay. Was a coach at Lowestoft Ladies previously and several Lowestoft Ladies players have moved with him to join Acle United Ladies.

  A wet and windy start to the year wreaked havoc with the fixture lists once again, pitches waterlogged all over the region, Billericay Town Ladies too, but wanting to get back to playing after a long lay off over the festive period booked a 3G pitch at John Hornsby High School in Basildon. Was raining heavily with a strong wind blowing the moisture across the pitch, needed to don the waterproof trousers for the 1st time at a match, umbrella up the camera wasn't going to like these conditions plus I'd left the spare batteries back in Norfolk too. We had a game on though and that was all that mattered.

  Billericay Town Ladies starting XI - Robyn Strauss, Charlotte Hopwood, Hayley Piggott, Kirsty Knight, Nicole Farmer, Katie Whitehead, Marie Barker (C), Frances Murphy, Lisa Robins, Lindsey Morgan & Paris Smith.
  subs - Vanessa Wilson, Stacey Smith, Sarah Bovington, Sabrina Campbell & Lauren Knight.

  Acle United Ladies starting XI - Chloe Nixon, Natasha Greenfield, Megan Cletheroe, Leah McGuire, Brogan Scully, Kelly Gray, Joanne Hooper (C), Alice Ladbrooke, Kate Pasque, Lauren Bullard & Rebecca Burton.
  subs - Gemma Bovington, Imogen Williams & Amber Rowland.

(roll on roll off substitutes)

The teams huddle before the match with the rain lashing down

  A gloomy cloudy day the floodlights are already on as Billericay kick off the 1st half wearing an all blue kit with white around the collar and sleeves of the shirts with Acle lined up opposite in their black and white vertical striped shirts with black sleeves (and gold numbers which strain my eyeballs to the limit) black shorts and black shorts. Right from the off Billericay are on the attack captain Marie Barker playing the ball into the run of Katie Whitehead down the right, looks to come inside taken on Acle left back Brogan Scully the defender keeps her eye on the ball puts in a good tackle as the pair enter the box to win the ball.

   Is a large 3G pitch and Billericay are looking to use it putting the ball out to their wide players. The ball is played quickly from left to right with Whitehead getting in behind this time into the box hits her shot early, Acle goalkeeper, Chloe Nixon drops quickly gets a hand on the ball doing enough to push it wide across the face of her goal and out for a corner kick on the left.

   Billericay are camped in Acle's half at the opening of the match win a series of corners which come to nothing, from the latest Acle half clear the ball, Billericay retain possession around the area the ball eventually coming to defender Hayley Piggott right of the D flicks the ball up and hits it on the half volley her attempt at goal off target.

   Acle captain Joanne Hooper looks to bring the ball out of their half, a strong run has Kate Pasque making a move to get up in front of her tries to put her through on goal the ball is deflected out to Lauren Bullard on the left as Acle get bodies forwards, puts the ball back inside to Hooper who switches play to the right the cross is sent in low into the box, Billericay goalkeeper Robyn Strauss reacts quickly coming off her line to dive on and smother the ball before it reaches Pasque. 

  Acle are starting to get on the ball more play is in the middle, Kelly Gray tries her luck from 25 yards out blazes her shot wide for Acle. Pushing up the visitors are almost caught out at the back as the ball is played through over the top for Frances Murphy on the left of the attack for Billericay close call but she has strayed offside. Pasque and Gray link up on the right corner of the Billericay area from a throw the ball put into Pasque's feet her lay off presents Gray with a shooting opportunity she takes it hits the ball towards the near post, Strauss has it covered holds onto the shot. Amber Rowland has come on for Acle in place of Lauren Bullard.

 GOAL! Paris Smith looking to get hold of the ball on the right side loses possession as she reaches the edge of the box, Acle are looking for a rapid counter attack putting it up the left side of their attack Billericay win it back on half way, turn things around as Lisa Robins plays a great ball forwards for Smith getting in behind into the box right of the goal picks her spot sending her shot across the keeper and into the back of the net 1-0. 

  Mid-way through the 1st half and Billericay have the lead. Acle win a free kick inside the visitors half on the left, Scully to play the ball in towards the edge of the box, Gray looks to rise and head the ball on takes a knick off a defender to turn it wide for a corner kick. Put in to the near post area the home side have plenty of bodies back to defend. 

  The wind has picked up markedly in the past few minutes the note pad gets a drenching from the umbrella fighting to keep me dry from above. Whitehead is on the attack for Billericay on the right pushing on past the edge of the box looks to whip a ball into the box, the cross turns violently towards goal hits the crossbar and drops kindly for Nixon to get clear.

Paris Smith scoring 2 goals for
Billericay  Town Ladies
  GOAL! Billericay double the score 5 minutes after taking the lead and it's the same combination again as Robins has the ball centrally winning it back as Acle look to bring it forwards, plays the ball forwards with Smith peeling off the visitors back line to steal in on the ball put into the area hits her shot on the run sending it over Nixon and into the roof of the net to score her 2nd goal of the match 2-0.

  The wind is blowing across the pitch with a few strong unpredictable gusts both sides aren't afraid to try a shot from distance. An error at the back from Piggott gives Acle's Rebecca Burton a chance to steal the ball and go beyond the home defence opts to shoot early 20 yards out pulls her effort wide of goal. Burton then turns provider to set up Alice Ladbrooke as she lays the ball back to her 25 yard out, the no 11 wrapping her foot around the shot sending it in low and arrow straight towards goal, Strauss is well placed as she drops to the floor to make the save.

  Up the other end and Whitehead puts another cross in from the right too close to Nixon at her near post the keeper bringing the ball down into her chest. Billericay win the ball back and attack down the left Smith doing well to hook the ball back off the byline and into the centre of the six yard box, Scully is cool under pressure to defend needing the softest of headers to put the ball back to her keeper even with Whitehead on her back.

   When Billericay attack they push up as a unit the whole side moving forwards which in turn pulls their opponents back are on the counter attack late in the half Smith is played through the middle again 20 yards out Nixon starts to come Smith gets the ball past her a low effort takes an age to reach the line beyond just wide of the post.

Half-time Billericay Town Ladies 2-0 Acle United Ladies

  Terrible conditions to play in but both sides have done well to keep the ball on the ground and make it a free flowing contest. Billericay have a two goal advantage with Smith getting in beyond the Acle defence on two occasions to score a brace, have counter attacked well moving forward as a unit. A 2 goal lead is nice to have but keeps the opposition interested in a comeback with another 45 minutes to play.

  Acle kick off the 2nd half have been using their substitutes regularly in the 1st half but being on opposite sides of the pitch and with a wet notepad keeping track of them hasn't been easy, Rowland is still on the pitch along with Imogen Williams wide right, Hooper is off with Pasque dropping into the back line. Billericay get hold of the ball right from the off Robins again looking to put Smith through on goal, this time though Scully gets across to get to the ball 1st.

  Attacking down the right as shot is struck from distance takes a deflection putting it behind to give Billericay a corner kick on the right. A good delivery from the corner played into the middle of goal six yards out coming in it's Whitehead who gets her head on the ball put at the keeper, Nixon throws her gloves up knocks the ball down, but it needs a clearance from her defence off the line to get it away from danger, Billericay keep it alive however the referee stops play with an Acle player down inside the box.

  Acle are pressing the ball harder in the middle of the park, breaking up Billericay's possession limiting the chances to put the ball over the top for Smith, when the chance comes Nixon is out of her area quickly to kick the ball away. Gemma Bovington comes to at right back for Acle. Play is much more congested to the middle of the park challenges coming in free kicks breaking up play. Whitehead on the ball down the right for Billericay holds it up well in the 18 yard line before laying it back to Smith on the edge of the box to hit goalwards sends her shot wide.

  Last action of the match for Whitehead as Billericay make their 1st change bring on Lauren Knight. Soon after Sarah Bovington also comes onto the pitch for the home side to replace Frances Murphy. Scully comes off for Acle too with Hooper retuning to the action moving up top into the attack. 

   Great chance for Acle to get themselves back into the match the overload the left side of the park as they attack the ball is fed inside to Hooper 20 yards out produces a great turn and hit to send her low shot past the diving Strauss inside her six yard box the ball cannons off the inside of the post but back out for the keeper to pluck back into her body.

  Acle are pushing hard for a goal from an earlier attack on the right defender Leah McGuire demonstrated she has a good throw on her. Level with the edge of the box this time sends the ball into the area for Hooper, strong on the ball pushes inside and shoots places the ball into the side netting.

   Robins is the next player off for Billericay with Vanessa Wilson coming on, however Robins has barely put her tracksuit top on when she is sent back on for Lauren Knight who has picked up a knock and needs to be assessed. Billericay are trying to hard from distance putting shots well wide of the mark in the last five minutes, Robins finally gets to rest with Stacey Smith being sent on. 

   Getting on the ball more winning it in the middle Acle launch a counter attack the ball pushed out wide for Burton on the left with Hooper running into the box can't control under challenge as the ball is fired into her, rolls loose to the edge of the area with Burton coming inside to support gets plenty behind the shot fires the ball wide across the face of goal. Sabrina Campbell comes onto the pitch late on for Billericay with Nicole Farmer coming off.

  Rowland has a shot at goal from 25 yards out as she intercepts a ball from the Billericay defence, an arrowing ball on target plays it straight at goalkeeper Strauss who holds on to it confidently. Rowland has the ball at her feet in a similar position minutes later this time looks to pick out Burton on the right as she makes a move to get into the box behind the Billericay defence, Sarah Bovington is the last defender and she produces a superb tackle to take the ball away from Burton to deny her a shot on goal putting the ball out for a corner kick.

   Pushing forwards needing a goal in is inevitable Acle would be vulnerable to a late counter attack and it's Bovington herself with the ball at her feet taking it over the halfway line hitting the shot early a vicious swerving effort which catches Nixon flat footed, somehow the goalkeeper produces a fantastic save the ball is past her as she somehow twists her waist and gets her gloves firmly on the ball to knock it wide of the post for a corner kick. 

  Late into the game holding onto their 2 goal lead Billericay can see the ball into the corner flag the final whistle blows and they get the win to move them back to the top of the ERWFL Premier Division. Stevenage Ladies have 2 games in hand but both sides have yet to face each other in the league this season. Do so next Sunday when Billericay are due to travel to Stevenage. Took their chances well were the better side 1st half, a more even 2nd half defended well giving Acle little opportunity to get in behind.

  Acle stay 7th will be glad to get a game under their belts an evolving squad that will be a competitive force in the ERWFL Premier Division several games to catch up on will be a busy 2016, but I'm sure they won't mind that. Got caught out at the back in the 1st half to let in the 2 goals tightened it up 2nd half, hit the post. They are at home next Sunday taking on AFC Dunstable Ladies.

  Not quite the wettest match I've attended but I'd rather do without, good match to start the year plenty more to come. My thanks to both clubs for their help with the teams today and Billericay for the sandwiches.

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