West Ham Ladies ended the season on a high after winning the Essex County Cup with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Barking.
In front of an expectant crowd at Hornchurch Stadium, goals from Lily Mellors, Kelley Blanchflower, Sarah McCrea, Emily Masters and skipper Stacey Little saw the Hammers crowned queens of Essex, with a late Barking goal proving to be nothing more than a consolation.
The Ladies have endured a difficult season on and off the pitch, with high profile players in Toni-Anne Wayne, Becky Merritt and Rosey Sullivan departing the club this season and a change in management after boss Mark Saunderson’s resignation but the final on earlier this month represented a glorious triumph for the hard work and dedication shown by the Ladies during a testing campaign.
“I’m over the moon – words can’t even describe how happy I am right now,” skipper Little told Blowing Bubbles after the game. The midfielder declared that winning the Essex County Cup was the highlight of her career and lifting the trophy was “a dream come true”. “I was nervous throughout the whole day, when I was at work thinking about it,” she explained. “I just wanted to get out and play and get it done. I wasn’t too bad when I got here though.
“It was difficult for us tonight because the pitch was so hard and bobbly. It was difficult to get the ball down and play the football that we wanted to play so considering the conditions weren’t the best, I think we did quite well. I think getting an early goal calmed us down and from then on we were just pushing to get another goal to secure the lead.” Little put the icing on the Ladies’ cake with a pearler of a strike from the edge of the box for the Hammers’ fifth goal to seal the win.
“I’ve tried those all season, I try them in training and they don’t quite come off and I thought that Dan [Danica Revell] wasn’t going to let it run through to me and it just came and I just had one aim in mind, to strike it as sweet as I did and beat the keeper.” The skipper immediately ran to celebrate with her family after the goal and told Blowing Bubbles of her family’s pride at her and the team’s achievement. “Captaining the side and being able to lift the trophy means a lot to me and I think they’re very proud so I had to get them involved in the celebration,” she said.
The Ladies have only league games left now and Little wants her side to use the cup victory as a springboard for momentum to end their league season on a high as well. She added: “Obviously the league hasn’t been great this year but hopefully this cup win can spur us up to push up a couple of places out of the last three games we’ve got left.”
Director of football Julia Setford praised her captain and said that the Ladies could use the win as momentum to push on next season. She told Blowing Bubbles: “It’s amazing for our club to win the Essex County Cup. We’ve had such an up and down season with players coming and going and the change of management so we’ve really had to focus the girls but to win this has put a positive spin on the end of the season and now we can go on next season and really push forward, so we’re pleased.”
Setford hailed the teamwork of her side as the driving force behind the victory, saying: “We’ve got the group together and they’re playing as a team now. We’ve got no individuals, no one’s better than anybody else and we like to keep them all on an even playing field and keep them grounded. “They’re enjoying their football now and you can see that and it’s starting to show on the pitch which is nice.”
She added: “They deserve this. It’s nice, especially for people like Stacey. She’s West Ham through and through, so for her to be able to lift the trophy, it’s lovely for her and her family and great for us as a club.