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Essex are off to a solid start to the new East Anglian Counties campaign as a first half header from defender Vanessa Wilson helped earn a point for new boss Kim Coster against Cambridgeshire.
"We've come along way from last year," said Essex boss Coster after the clash at Soham Town Rangers. "I'm very pleased for the girls and they've done themselves proud tonight. There were maybe a few early nerves, but when we settled we were excellent."
"Maybe we could have gone on to win. We were caught offside a few times in the second half and we could have gone two up. We were all a little disappointed to concede in the final 15 minutes, it would have been nice to hold on but I'm very pleased with the result."
Indeed, Essex where required to soak up much early pressure from their hosts as the County looked to find their feet early on.
The first opportunity arrived on three minutes when Cambs' Jodie Lapish drove over crossbar from the edge of the area before Michelle Bridgeman did well to cling onto Alison Wright's low shot.
Kayleigh Currie picked up a loose ball for the home side from a Sophis Piotrowska corner and Kerri Binks was called upon to hack the ball off the goalline.
Dagenham & Redbridge shot stopper Bridgeman then did well to twice block at the feet Piotrowska before Essex calmed any jitters by taking a 27th minute lead. A perfectly delivered Lianne Prior corner powered home by the head of Billericay's Wilson.
Essex could have doubled their led in similar fashion seven minutes before the break, this time Prior's flag kick was bundled goalward by Wilson, but Cambs 'keeper Verity Crook eventually managed to gather the ball.
The second period saw Essex make all the early running, but the best chance fell to Prior who's angled shot brought a fine stop from Crook after Zoe Rushen had created the opportunity.
Slightly against the run of play Cambs grabbed a leveller on 78 minutes, Naomi Lyon sliding home a low shot from 15 yards.
Undeterred, though, Essex continued to create chances and Prior stabbed a Marie Barker free kick just off target at the far post before, in stoppage time, Prior curled a 20 yard free kick inches wide of the upright.
Essex eventually settling for a draw, but content with a fine performance and a strong base for the new campaign. (Report by Mark Wallis)
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