Lancashire Simply FOURsome National Champs

In the most dramatic of circumstances at a rain-soaked Birmingham City FC, opponents Essex were out to avenge last season’s final defeat on penalties.

Essex showed the ball retention and pace which was to cause Lancashire all sorts of headaches, as they found themselves 2-0 down with just 15 minutes on the clock.

A mixture of poor marking and quick Essex interplay down their left saw the ball squared to Maddie Briggs who made no mistake. The same happened 2 minutes later as Lancashire were outpaced and again the ball was fed to Briggs and Essex were in dreamland.

Lancashire then lost inspirational captain and centre half Milly Robertson to a long-term injury but were able to fashio a crucial reply just before half time, as Kadie Morrison cut inside and forced a defender to slice the ball to Sophie Slater, who took one touch and rifled an unstoppable 25-yard drive into the bottom right hand corner.

Essex – who were always dangerous on the counter attack as Lancashire poured forward – had two chances to put the game to bed but they weren’t taken and as the game entered the 2nd minute of injury time, the drama was just beginning.

Abi Fenton exchanged passes with Cara Milne Redhead and took on the Essex full back to win a fortunate penalty for the Red Roses. The latter calmly dispatched the spot-kick to send the Lancashire players, staff and supporters into raptures!

Essex’s Lucy Egan hit the post from distance in extra-time but with the game seemingly heading for penalties, Morrison rolled in Aimee Hodgson to give Lancs the lead and down to the last 3 minutes.

Emma Bradley had to make a flying double save to retain the advantage and when the full time whistle blew, it brought tears of joy from many of the victorious players.

Lancashire Joint Manager Michael Nadal said: “The players have achieved the impossible to come from two goals behind after 15 minutes against a quality Essex side. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to equalize but I don’t think anyone who’s watched these girls throughout the day and season can deny that they deserve to be National Champions through the sheer passion and desire they show for their County”.

Lancashire added the National title to their Northern Counties Schools FA title which they won at a festival back in March and joined their U-16s who also earlier won their 5th consecutive Northern Counties crown with an impressive 3-0 victory over South Yorkshire.