Sunday 19th September
Norfolk Women’s Division One
First match from the county leagues this weekend on Women’s Football East, begin with a game from Norfolk Women’s Division One as Long Stratton Women host Stalham Town Ladies.
The Norfolk county league kicking off a week late due to a change to the league structure on the eve of the previous weekend. With alot of interest shown in pre-season for several new sides starting up it was hoped the league could begin with 3 divisions off 10 sides as the deadline for new sides to join and established clubs to register that number fell to 24 the league originally going with 3 divisions of 8 sides with 6 new sides joining. This though proved unpopular in some quarters and with further sides withdrawing most notably Tavern Ladies or Division One an emergency meeting was called to vote in a new structure of 2 divisions containing 11 sides in each.
The original Division One line-up looking very strong indeed with the loss of Tavern Ladies 4 sides from what would have been Division Two are (promoted) to Division One. Stalham Town Ladies, Thetford Town Ladies, Beccles Town Ladies and North Walsham Angels Ladies, joining Bungay Town Ladies, Dussindale & Hellesdon Women, Fakenham Town Women, Long Stratton Women, Mulbarton Belles, Sprowston FC Women and Thorpe St Andrew Women.
Established in 2010 Long Stratton Women are part of the wider Long Stratton FC featuring 4 adult teams and 13 youth sides. The women’s team for the most part yoyoing between Division One and Two. Back up into Division One two seasons ago there were signs the club was making progress the COVID pandemic having an impact on development as it has with every other club. Manager Adam Race along with assistant Lee Bambridge looking to build a squad capable of pushing on into the top half of the table challenge the top sides in the division. To that end have brought in 7 new signings over the summer. In come Emma Allsopp previously with Wroxham, Mia Wilkinson from Thorpe, defender, Alice Flatt from Bungay. Jordan Duke is dual signed with Halesworth Town Women. Robyn Johnstone also joining with striker Luci Middleton having been away from the game for 3 years having previously played for North Walsham Angels Ladies. An eye for a goal could form a potent attack with captain Sam Walker who has scored plenty of goals since joining Long Stratton. The latest addition to the squad Jess Brown previously with Tavern.
The COVID pandemic seeing two season’s effectively lost and most certainly robbed Stalham Town Ladies of the opportunity to win the Division Two title as they re entered the league 2 seasons ago. Going strong topping the table in both only to see the season curtailed. Was a surprise however not to see them promoted 1st time around, however in the new look 2 division set-up take their place in Division One. There captain Amber Mayhew strong in front of goal in previous campaigns it’s a settled squad that moves up with 3 new signings, Megan Swain, Charlotte MacMillan and Charlotte Hardingham.
Manor Road the venue for today’s match, the club very much at the heart of the community the pavilion open serving hot and cold drinks. The recreational area boasting several grass pitches, with a playground and skate park behind both goals on the main pitch. The pitch set up before the match the mobile dugouts, the goals, corner flag and roped of area for spectators on one side all brought out of storage. Quite muggy with the temperature good clouds building overcast, rain is forecast to potentially arrive and alot of it brought the umbrella just in case but hoping it won’t be needed, afterall I picked a ground with no cover and it’s not easy wielding a notepad, camera and umbrella all at the same time.
Long Stratton Women starting XI – Mia Wilkinson, Emily Ransome-Farmer, Summer Whiting, Megan Vincent, Kate Ransome-Farmer, Milly Cawcutt, Robyn Johnstone, Beth Stratton, Jordan Duke, Sam Walker (C) & Luci Middleton. Subs – Alice Flatt, Emma Allsopp, Harriet Hunwicks-Rush & Jess Brown.
Stalham Town Ladies starting XI – Danielle Barnes, Lalaine Davey, Charlotte Fisher, Charlotte Crane, Chloe Yarham, Emma MacMillan, Emma Gillespie, Megan Swain, Katie Clarke, Amber Mayhew (C), & Sophie-Jayne O’Connor. Subs – Becky Houghton, Charlotte Hardingham & Charlotte MacMillan.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Goalkeeper Jody Todd broke her wrist in pre-season for Long Stratton and with her replacement Kathryn Critchell away in international duty, it was Mia Wilkinson donning the gloves to make her Long Stratton debut between the sticks with fellow new signings, Robyn Johnstone, Jordan Duke and Luci Middleton in the starting XI with Alice Flatt, Emma Allsopp and Jess Brown named on the bench. Megan Swain starting for Stalham with Charlotte Hardingham and Charlotte MacMillan on the bench. It’s Long Stratton to kick of the match wearing an all red kit, with Stalham who usually play in red themselves in their all blue away kit.
Stalham are quick to close down the ball in the middle seeing it deflected out to Amber Mayhew on the left wing takes the ball on into the left channel getting in between full back and centre back pushes on towards the top of the area let of the D opts to shot with the outside of her right boot placed her shot across the goalkeeper but wide of the far post.
Emily Ransome-Farmer brings the ball on from right back for Long Stratton space ahead of her for Beth Stratton to run into back heels the ball into her infield to captain Sam Walker who attempts to play Stratton in behind, Charlotte Fisher getting in between the pair for Stalham sliding in to tackle Stratton playing out for a throw in. Taken deep on the right Robyn Johnstone is fouled 25 yards out referee Paul Gibson awarding the host a free-kick. Out wide players forwards into the area, Kate Ransome-Farmer placing the ball sends the set-piece looping in towards the far post, Stalham goalkeeper, Danielle Barnes can’t get to it as it drops to Luci Middleton beyond the far post, can’t get a strong enough touch to deflect the ball back inside the post out for a goal kick.
A lively start to the match breaking up a Stalham move at the back the ball is cleared to Stratton central she lifts it on up to Middleton 20 yards out back to goal turns round her marker, Charlotte Crane staying on her forcing the striker out wide to the right inside the box, Middleton nevertheless wrapping her foot round the ball to cross in central for Walker on the penalty spot, can’t get a shot away before she is closed down well by Lalaine Davey the ball deflected outside the area to the right a shot struck in with pace in the angle, Barnes stretching at her near post saving superbly tipping the ball round the post for a corner.
The ball bouncing around both sides wanting to get it forwards a quickly as possible, Summer Whiting on the left defending for Long Stratton the ball coming straight back up the right Katie Clarke’s touch sending her on in behind strikes the ball in on the angle, Mia Wilkinson collecting it on the bounce at her near post.
GOAL! A face paced start to the game see’s an early goal scored. Stratton’s pace on the right a threat for Long Stratton is played into space takes the ball on level with the penalty spot before squaring a cross into the centre of the box for Walker, gets her shot away early to the keepers right, Barnes lunging with an outstretched leg to try and keep it out is unfortunate as it deflects up off it into the roof of the net 1-0.
Long Stratton have settled the quicker moving the ball on quickly from back to front the ball spread out from the middle by Johnstone to Stratton right side puts it back infield for Walker 25 yards out attempts the through ball for Middleton peeling off the Stalham defence into the area however the flag is up against her. More combination play between Stratton right and Walker moving into the channel the ball into her feet she hooks it over the top looking for the run of Jordan Duke on the far side, Barnes up well to claim the ball high inside her box.
Stalham a little nervous at the start of the match not able to find their attackers a throw won on the left Fisher puts it on for Mayhew bringing the ball under control well turning taking it on up the wing checks inside heading for the box is tackled by Kate Ransome-Farmer. Davey on the left defends well for Stalham seeing the ball back to her keeper as Long Stratton try to get Duke in on the left side. Walker and Middleton link up outside the D for Long Stratton a defensive error seeing the ball sliced in behind, Walker after it, Davey does well on the cover defending for the visitors.
The ball comes straight back in Long Stratton right the keeper comes but can’t get there before Walker is stranded as the cross is played into the six yard box for Middleton but the flag is raised up against her. Stalham make a change bringing on Charlotte Hardingham for Clarke. Long Stratton doing well to turn play around the defensive happy to clear long knowing they have runners left and right with Walker through the middle.
GOAL! Long Stratton go on to double their lead inside the opening 15 minutes have a throw in deep on the left side the ball worked to Kate Ransome-Farmer wide puts in a cross looping up over the keeper may have taken a deflection the result though the ball bouncing into the goal beyond 2-0.
A good start to the game from Long Stratton carrying a potent threat going forwards, Stalham on the backfoot haven’t been in the final 3rd enough to test Wilkinson in goal. Both Emily and Kate Ransome Farmer defending well for the hosts the latter with a long ball forwards that sees Middleton beat the offside trap taking the ball on Crane managing to exert some pressure as she chases her back towards the area, Middleton getting a shot away disappointed as she picks out the keeper Barnes behind the shot making the save.
Middleton again top of the box attempting the scissor kick as Walker central inside the area turns Stratton’s cross from the right into her path, the shot running wide of goal. Stalham attacking up the left win a free-kick top of the area, Mayhew across to take it goes for goal struck well the ball racing across the six yard box out beyond the far post. Stalham finding a bit more possession in the Long Stratton half as Hardingham wins a good challenge lifting the ball into the channel for Emma MacMillan to chase, the weight of the pass favouring the keeper however as Wilkinson advances well to claim it.
Middleton steals in on the ball top of the box moving inside, Davey across from the left forcing the striker away from goal as Barnes advances to take the ball away from her and sent out for a throw wide right. Emma Gillespie and Megan Swain combining to win the ball centrally for Stalham up to Hardingham who hooks it over the top for Sophie-Jayne O’Connor making a right channel run to hit from 20 yards out her strike put straight at Wilkinson who holds onto it back on her line.
GOAL! Almost half an hour played and Stalham are coming into the game more pressing the ball in the middle runs on to O’Connor who clips it on into the area right side both Gillespie and MacMillan making runs into the area falling to MacMillan wide right of goal she chips Wilkinson to put the ball beyond her into the back of the net 2-1.
Stalham lively in attack now coming very close to pulling it level straight away winning the ball put out to Mayhew on the left puts it up the line for Gillespie ahead of her strikes a powerful shot in on the angle rising has a little too much on it as it whips over the crossbar.
An entertaining game end to end can’t take your eyes of it, Long Stratton winning a corner on the right. The inswinging ball played into the six yard box Barnes doing well amongst bodies to get a glove up to push the ball behind at the near post for a 2nd corner. The 2nd delivery knocked on at the near post falls into the box, whipped clear by O’Connor.
MacMillan with the ball wide right attacking for Stalham checks inside her marker firing in a cross along the face of goal, Wilkinson down on it with a smart grab inside the six yard box with Mayhew in the clear beyond her. 10 minutes left to play in the 1st half. Players dragged across to the right as MacMillan with help from Gillespie advances up the wing the cross fired into the area headed clear by Emily Ransome-Farmer, drops to O’Connor 20 yards out right of the D smashes a shot back in the ball rising over the crossbar.
MacMillan carrying a threat for Stalham on the right doing well to win her side a corner, the delivery in near side defended by Megan Vincent out for a throw right side. MacMillan gathering it into her feet driving into the area is quickly crowded off the ball by the Long Stratton defence a goal kick awarded. swain brings down Stratton as she bursts forwards with the ball on the right. A late opportunity in the half for the hosts to bring players forwards into the area as Kate Ransome-Farmer plays it in. O’Connor with the header to clear.
Crane brings down Middleton out left side some 30 yards out from goal a free-kick given. Walker over it goes for goal, isn’t far away either the shot narrowly over the bar. Stratton more central now picking up the ball 30 yards out for Long Stratton turns well taking on the defence jinking left the right into the area creating space for the shot plants the ball straight into the keeper.
Half-time Long Stratton Women 2-1 Stalham Town Ladies
A highly entertaining 1st half comes to a close with Long Stratton leading Stalham 2-1. A strong start from the hosts getting on the attack early on getting the ball into their wide players early the defence winning the ball at the back quick to turn play around. Have shown good movement and pace in attack. Stalham were nervous early on took them a while to settle into the game and by then found themselves trailing by 2 goals despite that come back well finishing the half the strongest pulling a goal back and having opportunities to draw level. Long Stratton though carry a strong threat in attack have created a host of chances could well have held a bigger lead. As is so often the case the next goal will be crucial Stalham will want to start the 2nd half as they finished the first.
Long Stratton with a change at the start of the 2nd half bringing on Emma Allsopp for Duke, the change seeing Stratton move to the left side with Allsopp on the right. Stalham having made tactical changes of their own towards the end of the first half to get players further forwards, Gillespie now in an advanced role. So far so good as far as the rain is concerned, the odd rumble of thunder in the background the air close hinting at an approaching storm as Stalham get the 2nd half underway.
O’Connor lifting the ball on for MacMillan right side slips in behind the defence travelling towards the area inside the box, Vincent closing her down before she can get a cross away. The visitors looking to press the ball higher up the pitch at the start of the 2nd half. Pressure from Swain on Whiting forcing the full back to play the ball out for a throw in, the ball worked in field runs to Gillespie central 25 yards out takes on the strike doesn’t get full contact with the ball seeing it lack pace as it runs through to the keeper.
Kate Ransome-Farmer with a good diagonal clearance out of defence from left to right for Allsopp to touch down into her path as she runs in behind moving central across the D places her shot wide of the far post. Wilkinson with a sharp save at her near post as Mayhew goes after a ball placed ahead of her in the right channel a heavy first touch allowing Whiting to clear smashes the ball straight into Mayhew who goes after the deflected ball inside the area attempts to lift it over the keeper, Wilkinson doing well to get her arms up deflect the ball down into the ground and claim on the bounce.
GOAL! An action packed start to the 2nd half with Stalham pressing looking for an equaliser it’s Long Stratton who pounce to grab themselves a 3rd goal, the ball popping about in the middle is claimed by Johnstone top of the circle who chips it out to Allsopp making a good run on the right brings it down well into the area and prods home beyond the keeper at the near post for her 1st Long Stratton goal 3-1.
A blow for Stalham early in the 2nd half the visitors are straight on the attack from the restart Mayhew right side in the clear sending a sweeping ball in across the six yard box, dealt with well by Emily Ransome-Farmer at the far post heading clear for Long Stratton. Walker moving out to the left to receive the ball whips in a cross into the box, both Middleton central an Allsopp far side going after it the bounce favouring Barnes who gets in between the pair to claim. End to end action both sides bypassing their midfields at times, Wilkinson composed clears the ball as Gillespie comes sliding in on her. Up the other end Davey defends well against Stratton as she looks to drive into the area with the ball at her feet.
Stratton off a throw left side turning inside to run towards the area just inside Crane times her tackle well as she puts in a foot to take the ball, Long Stratton’s appeals waved away. Gillespie carrying the threat in attack for Stalham now making some goo runs through the middle, Wilkinson knowing she has to be ready to come and clear if she bursts in between the centre backs. Stalham get a corner on the left side players up a good delivery into the box missed by everyone at the near post drops to O’Connor central gets her head on the ball, sees her effort rise over the cross bar.
Walker on the ball deep of Long Stratton right side sends it long for Middleton peeling off the defence to run onto top of the box she sees the ball down well striking it on the run low across goal, Barnes down well to make the save diving to her left to put the ball wide for a corner leaving Middleton frustrated once again. Emily Ransome-Farmer defending the resulting corner.
GOAL! Long Stratton go further ahead the ball contested in the middle Johnstone involved on for Stratton plays the pass early releasing Walker the ball ahead of her she takes it on into the area can’t be caught is one on one with the keeper is a case of staying composed, Walker places the ball to the keepers right to make it 4-1.
20 minute played in the 2nd half remains a busy contest Long Stratton with a healthy lead now taking their chances make a change at the back Alice Flatt coming on for her debut replacing Whiting. Walker away to the right whipping a cross in to the top of the area bouncing Middleton attempting to get it down under control, Barnes coming to close her down the pair collide the loose ball hooked clear by MacMillan back covering in defence. Barnes is down for a moment but okay to continue. Johnstone off for Long Stratton another debutant coming on Jess Brown.
Long Stratton press the ball Cawcutt on for Middleton plays the pass out to Allsopp on the right down the line before lifting a cross into the six yard box, Middleton in on the keeper neither getting a touch, Davey mopping up at the back post. A strong run from Gillespie out on the left of attack Emily Ransome-Farmer under pressure playing the ball out for a corner. Stalham with a double change before it’s taken, Yarham and Davey off at the back on come Charlotte MacMillan and Becky Houghton. The corner fired in striking the base of the near post and out of play for a goal kick.
Into the final 15 minutes Hardingham right side at the back on for Emma MacMillan bursts into space on the wing before firing a cross in on the angle swerving on near post, too close to the keeper, Wilkinson claiming it low before Mayhew can get a touch. Emma MacMillan is finding pace on the right getting in behind however on one has gambled in the middle to meet her cross as she plays it into the area.
Stratton playing central now for Long Stratton passes forwards to Middleton who clips the ball out to the left for Brown her cross sliced off a defender looping up towards the back post claimed well high in the air by Barnes. Players tiring from both sides Allsopp on the right inside to Middleton left of the D moves inside before unleashing a shot not happening this afternoon as the shot rolls wide of the right post.
Swain is tackled well inside the box by Stratton as she comes back to defend for the hosts after she is played into the box by O’Connor 25 yards out. Stalham’s turn to make the appeal but again nothing’s doing. Stalham bring off Hardingham late on with Clarke returning to the action. Stratton too coming off for Long Stratton replaced by Harriet Hunwicks-Rush. Clarke winning a corner in bizarre circumstances as her long ball forwards looks to be threatening the Long Stratton goal, Wilkinson can’t be sure takes the catch but has drifted past her post and steps over the by-line before she can release the ball. A Stalham handball is spotted inside the area from the resulting corner Long Stratton win the free-kick.
Long Stratton with a rapid counter attack the ball into Walker right on for Allsopp takes it on before firing in a near post cross Middleton there to make contact with the ball sending it wide across the keeper, wide too though beyond the far post. Emily Ransome-Farmer with another well timed tackle to deny Mayhew a crossing opportunity on the left. The visitors quick to win it back Gillespie with a shot on the angle powered wide of the near post.
GOAL! Stalham pull a goal back in the dying moments of the game, Charlotte MacMillan with a hopeful ball forwards from the ball central it’s weighted well, Gillespie may have gotten a touch outside the box as it runs in inside for O’Connor to latch onto unmarked and send high wide of the keeper to make it 4-2.
Not much time left in the game Stalham try to get players forwards the ball loss comes to Allsopp on the right sees Brown on the move left side attempts the diagonal ball into the area bounces too close to the keeper, as Barnes steps out to claim it. Long Stratton with the ball in attack seconds left on the clock Middleton with it right Allsopp inside her right of the D the ball put into her strikes it on the turn, Clarke in to charge the ball down as the final whistle blows.
Full time Long Stratton Women 4-2 Stalham Town Ladies
A highly entertaining game to open the season in Norfolk Division One the action non stop for 90 minutes, both teams committed going for a positive result. Long Stratton settling the quicker getting an early goal capitalising to go further ahead as Stalham nervous early on took time to settle down pull themselves back into the match getting it back to 2-1 finished the 1st half the stronger. Wanting to build on that 2nd half it was Long Stratton who got the early goal 2nd half going on to make it 4-1. Stalham kept going looking for a goal both sides with chances to add to the score line it was Stalham with the goal in the closing moments of the game to see it end 4-2.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football east – Player of the Match, it’s not often they’re easy decisions and today is no exception a few performances of note. Firstly for Stalham I thought Lalaine Davey was excellent in defence making a number of crucial tackles and getting round on the cover. Emma Gillespie too worked hard throughout pushed further forwards did her best to create an opening bring her side back into the game. For Long Stratton, Beth Stratton was superb her pace and movement causing Stalham problems where ever she was operating on the pitch. Sam Walker again with great positioning on and off the ball looking to create chances and set up other scoring twice. The award today though goes to Emily Ransome-Farmer a strong performance at the back tackling well and limiting opportunities for Stalham throughout.
An enjoyable trip to Manor Road, the umbrella wasn’t needed in the finish the rain staying away for the entire match. An entertaining game end to end plenty going on chances created the result could well have unfolded differently Long Stratton making the better start the key. My thanks as always to the clubs for providing me with the team details always appreciated.
by Darren Gilham