Tractor Girls' season is over after FA Cup defeat
- Credit: Ross Halls
Ipswich Town Women's hugely disrupted season is over after the Tractor Girls lost 2-1 at Billericay in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Joe Sheehan's squad made history last season when they became the first team from the fourth tier of women's football to reach the fifth round of the cup, before losing at mighty Manchester City.
But this season, which again has been hit by the Covid pandemic, Town bowed out in the second round.
Anna Grey fired Ipswich ahead with a stunning strike from 25-yards before a brace from Billericay forward Therese Addison saw the hosts progress into the next round, after what was the first competitive fixture either side had played in 112 days.
Town enjoyed a lot of early possession, with Grey a proving to be a huge threat down the left-hand side. The Town winger had the first real chance of the game but saw her shot turned behind for a corner by Amy Mullett.
The Tractor Girls continued to create chances and should've been ahead inside the first twenty minutes but after being intricately played through by teenage debutant Lucy O'Brien, forward Natasha Thomas was denied her 100th goal for the club following a tremendous save from Mullett.
From the resulting corner just seconds later, Lucy Egan saw her half-volley cannon off the crossbar after she had given her marker the slip.
The Tractor Girls took the lead just before the half-hour mark after a moment of pure quality from the largely impressive Grey.
After receiving an inside pass from Abbie Lafayette, Grey took aim and unleashed a thunderbolt over the head of Mullett to put Town ahead.
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However, the lead would only last three minutes as Billericay struck back through Addison, who spun on the edge of the area before firing past Lucy Williamson at her near-post.
Town continued to create chances and should've got themselves back in front with four minutes to go until the break as Grey squared for Thomas but with the goal gaping, the Town number 7 uncharacteristically sliced over the bar from a couple of yards out.
Soon a moment of controversy struck as the Tractor Girls had a goal disallowed. Molly Sutherland had turned Grey's cutback into the bottom corner but the linesman flagged for interference against Thomas, who looked neither offside nor in the goalkeeper's eyeline.
Referee Lee Markwick consulted with his assistant after a strong protest from Town but ultimately decided not to award the goal.
Billericay then had a golden chance to take the lead before half-time but Addison saw her driven free-kick crash against the post, with Zoe Rushen subsequently missing the follow-up.
Just after the hour-mark, the Tractor Girls had an appeal for a penalty turned down after O'Brien appeared to be tripped in the area but the referee waved away the protests to the displeasure of the Town bench.
Billericay soon started to grow into the game and put Ipswich under a bit of pressure, with Town holding firm against the counter-attacks.
However, the hosts delivered a hammer blow inside the final five minutes as Addison notched the winner.
Paige Clemenson broke into the Ipswich area and squared the ball for her teammate, who slammed home after Peake slipped trying to make a brave last-ditch interception.
Town attempted to rally but were unable to find an equaliser as Billericay held on to secure their place in the third-round.
The result means a largely disrupted season of competitive football is over for the Tractor Girls, with the Blues now set to play a schedule of friendlies before preparations get underway ahead of the 2021/22 season.
Boss Sheehan said: "We're really disappointed. Obviously we had a good run in the competition last season, and we wanted to have a positive experience again, but it's not to be.
"It's a learning curve for us. We carry expectation and a bit of pressure, not just on ourselves, but maybe outside of our bubble, where the success we've had over a couple of years, we've done a lot of really good things and people think that things just happen, and they don't.
"Today we've come unstuck and we didn't do well enough."
He added: "We wanted to create a masterpiece and we weren't able to do that. It's a tough afternoon for us, but all the best to Billericay in the next round."