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Billericay Town 3 Loughborough Foxes 4
Loughborough Foxes progressed to the Fourth Round of the SSE Women's FA Cup after a hard fought win away to Billericay Town.
The FA National League Southern Division side trailed briefly early on before scoring four times with some exciting attacking play. Ultimately. though. Foxes had to hang on after a spirited revival from the Division One South East hosts late in the tie reduced their advantage to one.
Billericay got off to the best possible start when Sam Pittuck drove home a bouncing ball from 20 yards beyond Amy Burle for a stunning opener on six minutes. However Foxes were in front before ten minutes had been played. Firstly, Rebecca Knight turned in a Shauna Chambers free kick for the leveller, then a minute later Becky McGrother was the quickest to react to a low cross from Knight after good play by Eva Rogers down the right.
Pittuck nearly levelled on 12 minutes with a lobbed effort inches wide as both teams attacked with great intent. Zoe Rushen had a shot well held by Burle whilst at the other end McGrother and Chloe Young both went close to adding to the lead.
The hosts were denied an equaliser by a superb save by Burle on 33 minutes after Karissa Rodney was put though by a defensive slip. The Foxes keeper got a strong hand to Rodney's 15-yard effort to turn the ball against the bar and recovered to grab the rebound.
The value of this save was shown within two minutes as the visitors extended their lead when Young released Rogers down the right and her cross was controlled by Knight and fired past Alex Baker in the home goal by McGrother.
Billericay finished the half well with three corners and continued to dominate on the restart. Pittuck was denied her second goal by Burle turning away a header and then had another headed effort which drifted just wide.
Two of Foxes' best players on the day combined for a fourth goal which seemingly would seal the win. Young measured another weighted through pass for Rogers cutting in off the wing and the finish was low and precise past Baker on 68 minutes.
For a time it seemed that the outcome was settled but Billericay always had a threat in attack and as the last ten minutes started it was Rushen who pounced to reduce the deficit from a right wing cross. When the same player added a neat third on 85 minutes the sizeable crowd started to believe in a miraculous comeback.
Loughborough were now under pressure every time the ball was sent forward early for the eager attackers to chase. Several times the ball bounced dangerously in the area but no clear cut opportunity fell for the hosts.
Fittingly the final effort of a fine contest was by Pittuck powering in another shot from distance but Burle held the ball at full stretch and the whistle blew to seal Foxes' progress.
It was easy to see why both clubs are having fine seasons in the league, full of attacking intent and invention matched with hard work but on the day it was the visitors who progressed to the draw for Round Four.
Alex Baker, Danica Dougal, Megan Jiggins, Jay Blackie, Lucy Jones, Esme Lancaster, Karen Stephanou, Sam Pittuck, Zoe Rushen, Lindsey Morgan, Karissa Rodney. Subs: Nicole Farmer, Nancy Butler, Courtney Lumley, Broghan Kelly, Nikita Runnacles, Kelsey Smith, Sophie Vale.
Amy Burle, Pip Cassidy, Ria Acton, Kate McLoughlin, Becky Matlock, Shauna Chambers, Chloe Young, Rebecca Knight, Eva Rogers, Becky McGrother, Charlotte Cooper. Subs: Laura Dexter, Charlotte Broad, Simran Singh, Laura Parsons.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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