AFC Basildon 4-2 Billericay Town
(Report courtesy of Emily Clogg)
With their impressive 4-2 win against Billericay Town on Sunday, AFC Basildon cemented their place in the Essex County FA Women’s Cup Final for the sixth season in a row. The victory ensured they went into this game in fine form, now boasting a run of six wins in as many games. However, Wednesday night’s Essex Derby opponents were not to be underestimated as they sought revenge and a valuable three points.
The visitors undoubtedly started the far brighter team, with 3 chances in the first seven minutes, one of which saw the ball hit the back of the net due to Basildon’s failure to clear their lines from a corner, but the referee blew his whistle following a Billericay handball in the box. However, just a minute after, it soon became clear that set-pieces were going to cause the home side problems, with a strong save by Charlie Bolland to deny a Zoe Rushen free-kick.
In the twelfth minute, though, Therese Addison put the visitors a goal up with an impressive and powerful free-kick from 30 yards out. They could’ve (and perhaps should’ve) added to this tally during their dominant opening spell, with Addison and Smith both putting efforts just shy of the post as we began approaching the end of the first half. Then, against the run of play, Poppy Binding received the ball in the centre of the pitch and picked out a lovely through ball, finding Kelly Wealthall who calmly slotted home to get Basildon back into the game. This proved to be a very important turning point in the fixture, giving them the momentum they lacked and needed going into half time, with the scoreline at 1-1.
Basildon started the second half much sharper, and it took them just 2 minutes to find the back of the net. A composed Poppy Binding took the ball around the keeper before firing in with her left foot at a tight angle to give us the lead. Billericay didn’t give up though and had two good opportunities in the fifteen minutes that followed. Addison had a great chance to add to her tally, one-on-one with the keeper, but she couldn’t keep her shot down and saw it go high and wide.
Some last-ditch defending kept the scoreline 2-1 in the sixty-second minute, with a goal-line scramble eventually being cleared to safety by a Basildon defender as the visitors saw another great chance come from a set-piece. The game was end-to-end, with big chances squandered by both sides until the seventy-fourth minute saw substitute Courtney Clarke earn a penalty after being dragged down in the box by Laken Duchar-Clark, the player she had cleverly cut inside of. Up stepped Kelly Wealthall who converted the spot-kick to give the home team a two-goal goal cushion.
Alex Baker got her fingertips to the ball with what looked like a crucial save, however it just crept past her and over the line to give Kelly her second of the game and her fifteenth league goal of the season. Then, just five minutes later, Courtney Clarke scored a lovely goal herself, curling the ball into the bottom right to make the scoreline 4-1. The AFC Basildon girls quickly put the game to bed in an impressive attacking display, however the defending wasn’t quite finished. A brilliant goal-line clearance by Grace Gillard denied the visitors a consolation goal in what was the last chance of the game.
This Essex Derby was most certainly a tale of two halves, and Basildon’s clinical finishing saw them come out on top in a thrilling game at Park Lane. An impressive team display with top individual performances from Kelly Wealthall, Poppy Binding, Grace Gillard and captain of the night Mollie Debell to name a few. They now hope to continue this fine form at home to Kent Football United on Sunday, whilst Billericay are back at home welcoming Norwich City.