West Ham Ladies gearing up for Essex County Cup final clash against Barking

West Ham Ladies captain Stacey Little admits she cannot wait to lead out the Hammers when they take on Barking in the Essex County Cup Final on Thursday.

The midfielder was given the armband following forward Becky Merritt’s departure in February and told Blowing Bubbles shortly after her appointment that she had targeted the Essex County Cup as a trophy the Hammers could win to help salvage a disappointing season.

“We missed out on the final last year and lost in the final the year before so it’s time for us to be reunited with that trophy,” she said. “It’s only a few days away now and all the girls are buzzing for the cup final. There’s no one who doesn’t want to play in this match and everyone has been worried about getting the slightest little knock or twinge because there’s just no way that people want to miss the game through injury.

“Despite everything that has happened this season with all the changes both on and off the pitch, the atmosphere right now is at the best it has been all season. To be able to win silverware after such a turbulent season would show the character of the girls we have right now.”

The Hammers will be seeking to win the competition for a third time, having previously lifted the trophy in 2009 and 2011. Barking have also won it twice previously, in 2001 and 2003.

“I’ll be nervous but very proud to be leading the girls out – especially as I thought I was going to miss this game after getting injured in the semi final and missing two games,” Stacey continued. To walk the team out that I support and care about so much in a cup final will mean a lot to me and my family. It will be the proudest day of my footballing career and it would be great to see as many West Ham fans there as possible.”

The Ladies route to the final saw them beat Colchester United 4-0 before seeing off C&K Basildon in a tight semi-final penalty shoot-out which saw ‘keeper Lauren Picton save two penalties and defender Danica Revell slot the winning spot-kick to put the Ladies through to Thursday’s final against Barking.

“We really don’t know too much about Barking,” Stacey explained. “I know they are a few leagues below us but they have been on a good run of form recently so their confidence will be sky high going into the game. I don’t like to focus too much on the opposition though. For me, it’s all about us and how we prepare leading up to the game and how we play our game on the night.

“We are, of course, expecting a tough game. It’s a cup final and everyone is going to be up for it. Cup upsets happen all the time and although on paper people will say that we should win, Barking will have no pressure on them. We need to give Barking the same respect that we show the teams we play in our league.”

The game will kick off at 7.30pm and is being played at AFC Hornchurch’s stadium (Bridge Avenue, Upminster, RM14 2LX). Tickets cost £4 for adults, £2 for children.

The Ladies play their home games at Thurrock FC, Ship Lane, Grays, Essex, RM19 1YN. For more information about the Ladies and their upcoming games click here

By David Blackmore

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