SOUTHEND United’s ladies team will make history this weekend when they line up in the first round of the FA Cup for the first time ever.

The Shrimpers make the short trip to Canvey Island’s Park Lane ground on Sunday to take on Hashtag United.

And Blues boss Lewis Dodds is incredibly proud of the team’s progress.

“I am extremely proud of how far this team has come in the FA Cup this season,” said Dodds.

“To improve our record from last year’s cup debut when we reached the preliminary qualifying round and to reach the first round proper of the cup for the first time in our history is a huge achievement for this club and is something we are all proud of.”

Blues, who are in the Premier Division of the Essex County Womens League, have beaten Rayleigh Town, Garston Ladies and Frontiers Ladies to make it into the first round proper.

But Dodds is fully aware of the size of the task facing the Shrimpers on Sunday.

“There are only five Tier 7 clubs left in this competition and we are one of them,” said Dodds.

“Our opponents, Hashtag United Women, currently sit in Tier 4 so we know it’s going to be hard work for the team.

“Hashtag will play quick football throughout the game and know how to find the back of the net but there is no reason why my team can’t do the same.

“As long as my team give all they’ve got until that final whistle and fight for a result, I will be happy.

“I am already so proud of them all and how far they have come.

“It is an experience none of us will forget.”

Dodds, who is assisted by coach April Smith, is now enjoying his fourth season in charge of the Shrimpers.

And he remains determined to raise awareness of their achievements.

“One of my aims when I took over as manager was to make everyone aware that Southend United has a ladies team,” explained Dodds.

“During my time as manager we have grown a lot as a club.

“We’ve launched social media pages, hosted charity matches and Garon Park has become our new home ground.

“We’ve been involved in Meet the Blues Day too and we’ve just secured a huge sponsor, Belway Homes, to help support the club.

“Over the last season we’ve also noticed more spectators at our games and we always want Blues fans to come along and support the ladies whether they are league games, cup games, home or away.”

But Dodds believes Sunday’s match will be the Shrimpers’ biggest so far.

“Seeing this club grow stronger each season and even winning the Ladies Day Trophy at Hatfield Peverel during pre-season are some of the best achievements but reaching the first round proper of the FA Cup has to come top of the list,” he added.

Sunday’s match kicks off at 1pm.