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Landmark day for Essex
 Women's Football News 23 Sep 2013
Essex female football celebrated the start of a new era on Saturday 21st September with the opening set of FA Girls Centre of Excellence fixtures taking place at Shrub End Community and Sports Centre in Colchester as Arsenal Ladies visited in the Under-17s, 15s, 13s and 11s age groups for the first time. 
As one of only 31 such centres in the whole of England, Essex now provide for nearly 80 players aged up to 17 to be accommodated within a playing programme, which involves four hours of training a week and weekly fixtures against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Middlesex, and Brighton. There are also opportunities for exceptional talents to be identified as 22 games are observed by FA national scouts who can progress elite players.
At full time in all the matches on the Shrub End site, the Centre of Excellence's General Manager, Sharon Brownlie, reflected on a landmark day for female football in the county: "It was a victory in itself that the first day of Centre of Excellence football was completed successfully. We are very pleased with the overall delivery of the day and feel we gave the players, coaches and parents from both teams a good matchday experience."
"We are also working very hard with James Lisher in the Referees Department at the Essex County FA to develop referees and the match officials we've have had over the last two weeks have been of a high standard, adding to the experience for the players. Overall the performances of all the age groups were good. As a centre we have a strong philosophy on how we want the game to be played and that was achieved regardless of any scorelines."
In the Under-17s fixture, Essex fell behind to a swift Gunners opener inside the first minute and the visitors doubled their advantage shortly afterwards, although Essex could consider themselves unfortunate with both strikes. Arsenal maintained that cushion into half time and added to it just the other side of the interval with a fantastic effort.
The Gunners went on to have a potential fourth ruled out for offside though they did eventually wrap the game up with another as they converted a delivery via a corner. Essex responded with some excellent attacking football as they looked to salvage a consolation. Arsenal had another goal chalked off by the officials, again for offside, then Essex were also unlucky when one of their own shots was cleared from under the crossbar at the other end.
After the match Under-17s Head Coach, Kevin Baker, commented: "The work ethic and attitude of the players was first class. In terms of quality, we matched Arsenal in certain areas on the pitch and never gave up. After a bad start we didn't crumble and took the game to them - we didn't sit back and try to consolidate. We will take positives from the game, learn from the mistakes we made and put things right at Millwall next Saturday."

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