Wednesday 25th May
Norfolk Women’s County Cup Final
Final game of the season for Women’s Football East this evening, ending thing’s with a midweek trip to Carrow Road for the Final of the Norfolk Women’s County Cup sponsored by Harrod Sport between Mulbarton Belles Ladies and Wymondham Town Ladies.
The women’s county cup finale back at the home of Norwich City FC for the 2nd time having hosted the women’s showpiece game in Norfolk back in 2019, between King’s Lynn Town Ladies and Wymondham Town Ladies. The final originally at the newly developed Harrod Sport arena at the FDC, the game switched to Carrow Road following online protests over the decision.
A county cup double at Carrow Road this week for Mulbarton Belles Ladies with the man’s side beating Dereham Town 2-1 on Monday to lift the Ashtons Legal Senior Cup. Mulbarton Belles Ladies very much looking forwards to the experience at playing at the home of the Canaries having reached the county cup final for the 2nd successive season and their first full season playing under the Mulbarton banner. The side born following a despite with their former club that saw much of the senior squad and their manager Martin Francis move to Mulbarton who have had a woman’s side previously. Now taking on a talented and tightly knit squad to compete in the NWGFL bearing fruit straight away as they reached the county cup final where they were beaten by Norwich City Women.
Building on that successful debut in the NWGFL have had a hugely successful league campaign running away with the Division One title winning all 20 of there league matches to finish 12 points clear of the rest. A potential treble on the cards having reached both the finals of the league and county cups, were to miss out in the league cup final 10 days ago beaten in a sudden death penalty shootout by Fakenham Town Ladies. Still one more shot at a double although it will be a tall order agianst Wymondham this evening. That said Mulbarton have knocked out higher league opposition twice on their way to this season’s final. Captain Rebekah Lake their talisman in front of goal netting an incredible 42 goals so far this season. Missing the league cup final due to a broken arm was hoping to get the cast removed in time to be available for this evenings final, and I had no doubt she would.
Like Mulbarton, Wymondham Town Ladies have had hugely successful season, under manager Alex Guy the club has progressed up the women’s football pyramid, the stand alone club as they won the ERWFL Premier Division to win promotion from the regional set-up to the national FAWNL tier 4 above. Made it a league and cup double with a 2-1 win over fellow Norfolk side Wroxham Women in the League Cup final 2 weeks ago and are now seeking to make it a treble winning season by winning the county cup for the 3rd time. Have fond memories of Carrow Road having won the first women’s county cup final to be played here back in 2019 beating King’s Lynn 4-1 to lift the trophy for the 2nd successive season and will want to end an excellent season on a high. Hannah Waters leading goal scorer netting 20 goals this season with fellow attackers, Francesca Catchpole and Laura Nicholls with 16 and 15 respectfully.
Road to the Final
The 4 leading sides in Norfolk through league placing, Norwich City Women, Wymondham Town Ladies, Wroxham Women and King’s Lynn Town Ladies not entering the competition until the quarter final stage the rest of the entrants playing for the other 4 places in 3 rounds. Mulbarton Belles Ladies effectively given a bye through to the quarter finals themselves progressing without kicking a ball, a first round bye followed by Away wins awarded in rounds 2 and 3
The quarter final draw throwing up a tough tie and repeat of the previous years final as Mulbarton were away to Norwich City Women. Winning that final 7-0, Norwich would have been strong favourites but back then were struggling in their league whilst Mulbarton were in good form scoring goals the the game level at 2-2 at the final whistle heading to a penalty shoot out often a lottery, it was Mulbarton who emerged victorious winning 4-3 to book their spot in the semi-finals. Wymondham also away in the quarter finals drawn against Division One side Thetford Town Ladies. Wymondham eventually going on to run out comfortable winners 6-1 to progress into the semi-finals with Francesca Catchpole scoring a hat-trick, Chelsea Clarke, Katie Knights and Laura Nicholls all getting a goal each.
Both sides drawn away in their respective semi-finals. Mulbarton with a trip to The Walks to play ERWFL Premier Division side, King’s Lynn Town Ladies. Another close game with a single goal enough to win the game going in Mulbarton’s favour as they reached the final for a 2nd successive season. Wymondham taking on Dussindale & Hellesdon Rovers Women, the NWGFL Division One side knocking out ERWFL Premier Division rivals Wroxham on penalties in the quarter finals. Goals for Laura Nicholls and Katie Knights securing a 2-0 win and another appearance in a Carrow Road final looking to win the county cup for a 3rd time and with it the treble.
Great to see the Women’s County Cup Final back at Carrow Road. A superb venue hosting a Lionesses game here back in February, and with the upcoming Euro’s this summer an fantastic opportunity to see substantial growth in the women’s game. A special occasion for the players and coaching teams and fans alike just as it was for the men’s Senior Cup final on Monday, a showpiece final at a leading stadium in Norfolk. Up in the press box for this one a great view of the pitch is large and as you’d expect an immaculate grass pitch to play on. A decent crowd building in buoyant mood both teams with plenty of support. Cloudy but mild with little chance of rain.
Mulbarton Belles Ladies starting XI – Cara Anderson, Vicky McNorton, Olivia Mungham-Gray, Megan Belsey, Lucy Lincoln, Alice Smith, Laura Hedtke, Ellie Hunter, Sophie Jermy, Atlanta Griffith & Rebekah Lake. Subs – Melissa Belsey , Annie Smith, Olivia Smith, Meg Anderton & Molly Ryan.
Wymondham Town Ladies starting XI – Chloe Pearce, Chelsea Clarke, Leah Newcombe (C), Lauren Kett, Mary Croft, Becca Russell, Katie Knights, Jennifer Codman, Natasha Youngs, Kyla Love & Hannah Waters. Subs – Jess Luff, Hayley Kindred, Francesca Catchpole, Laura Nicholls & Lyla Studd.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
A moment of silence held before kick-off held in memory of the tragic victims of the senseless mass shooting at Uvalde School in Texas, followed by a period of applause for those lost in the Norfolk football community over the past year.
Captain Rebekah Lake in the starting line-up for Mulbarton having had her cast removed, a few players carrying knocks, whilst Wymondham have players out injured too. Both sides having seen little competitive action over leading up to the final with Mulbarton’s league campaign finishing a month ago, Wymondham’s as far back as March 27th with a couple of cup games in between. Wymondham to get the county cup final underway kicking off first half wearing red coloured shirts with black shorts and socks. Mulbarton opposite wearing black and blue vertical striped shirts with blue shorts and socks. The ball played back into Jennifer Codman in midfield back to her right back Mulbarton closing down forcing play back to the keeper.
Atlanta Griffith on the ball for Mulbarton linking up with Laura Hedtke in midfield she spreads play out to the right for Ellie Hunter getting up on the right her cross turned away for a throw in. Mulbarton making a positive start rushing in to close Wymondham down who look a little nervous in comparison the ball given away, Kyla Love looking to get on into the left channel, Vicky McNorton defending for Mulbarton who look to counter through the middle, Codman tackling to reclaim possession for Wymondham.
Chelsea Clarke bringing the ball on for Wymondham on the left from the back lifting it forwards for striker Hannah Waters moving out onto the wing, McNorton going with her for Mulbarton with the challenge to win the ball, play stopped however with the flag raised for offside. Katie Knights controlling the ball in midfield for Wymondham turning to lift it forwards for Love bursting through on the left side but unable to keep the ball in play. Becca Russell winning the resulting header from the goal kick for Wymondham 30 yards out left put on for Knights looking to run in behind, Megan Belsey alert stabbing a foot out to take the ball from her feet out for a throw high up the pitch.
Griffith getting about the pitch closing players down to pressure possession linking well with Hedtke and Smith in midfield for Mulbarton. Getting the ball into her feet 20 yards out back to goal left of the D Griffith helps it on for Lake breaking into the area left side gets to the by-line her attempted cross, turned behind for a corner kick. The delivery flashed in near side comfortably defended by Wymondham. The ball played out to Waters right over halfway looks to get forwards, lacking support is outnumbered on the ball.
Mulbarton pressing outside the Wymondham box, Griffith strong with Knights heading the ball forwards right side for Hunter who looks to take it inside towards the box, Mary Croft defending well for Wymondham clearing the ball. Mulbarton with a promising start up on the right with a throw inside for Sophie Jermy right of the D playing the ball inside for Lake again taking the ball onto the by-line seeing her cross charged down behind for a corner.
Coming on with the ball through the middle Wymondham’s Russell on for Waters in attack, has Love getting on ahead of her, the threaded pass, cut out by Mulbarton centre back, Lucy Lincoln. Codman given the ball on the left for Wymondham looks to drop it over the top into the box to be attacked, goalkeeper, Cara Anderson getting her gloves around the ball safely first. Wymondham looking better now getting numbers forwards quicker as they win possession a throw high on the left into Waters can’t capitalise with her cross.
Love controlling the ball on the left in attack for Wymondham has full back, Clarke bombing on on the overlap laying the ball on into her path escapes in behind wide the send a cross into the six yard box, Lincoln with the hasty clearance getting to the ball ahead of Waters closing in. Griffiths doing the defending at the near post for Mulbarton. Causing problems at the other end too is fouled wide. 15 minutes played a competitive game in store. Griffith to the right taking the ball on from Hedtke sends it across the top of the Wymondham area for Jermy to take on the spin into the area left side, Lauren Kett closing in to tackle for Wymondham win the ball.
Smith central for Mulbarton picking out Jermy forwards on the left she squares it into Griffith central 20 yards out top of the D her shot on the turn dipping in towards goal, goalkeeper Chloe Pearce right behind it to save comfortably for Wymondham. An opportunity out of nothing for Wymondham as Natasha Youngs wide on the right is in to attack the box after the defence miss the ball, driving for the area, is rapidly closed down under challenge managing to get a shot away the ball deflected behind at the near post for a corner.
Put in near side, Jermy heading it away up the left side for Mulbarton, won back by Wymondham captain Leah Newcombe the cross sent back in towards the top of the area Mulbarton’s defence stepping up, Lincoln winning the header to clear. Lake seeing the ball rolled into her feet in attack looks to press forwards for Mulbarton in attack, isolated however, Croft getting back at her to tackle regain possession for Wymondham. Jermy with the ball left side crossing into Griffith near post area 10 yards out stooping an twisting to get her head on the ball, sees it blocked before being turned behind.
Waters drifting left looking to get in behind with the ball, Megan Belsey doing well against her for Mulbarton, Love up the pitch pressing winning Wymondham a corner. The ball knocked on into the middle of the box, no shot on as the ball is closed down. Knights full of energy for Wymondham taking the ball on through the middle, McNorton and Lincoln closing her down. Croft bringing the ball on from the back for Wymondham with a great pass forwards for Waters beating the offside trap, Lincoln recoverin to get a foot in to take the ball away for a corner on the right. The inswinging delivery curling onto the top of the crossbar ear side.
The crowd in good voice backing both teams. Waters appears to have pulled up with an injury for Wymondham, down can’t continue midway through the 1st half, on comes Laura Nicholls. Jermy moving to the right in attack for Mulbarton getting forwards looking to thread it on for Lake pulling off the defence to get into the box, Croft back at her well to clear the ball away for a throw. Is a little lively with a few strong tackles flying in adding to the crowds enthusiasm. Youngs breaking right side for Wymondham attempts to put the ball on for Nicholls the pass over hit.
Knights getting on left side supporting Love, Belsey winning the ball back for Mulbarton. Kett strong in defence with Griffith on her shoulder looking to attack the ball left of goal, gets it bac into her keeper to clear. Smith and Hedtke battling in the middle to get the ball back for Mulbarton put out to the right the cross sent long on into the area left side, Newcombe winning the header for Wymondham. Newcombe then getting up the pitch on the right looking to support Youngs and Nicholls as they try to make headway outside the Mulbarton area.
GOAL! That move breaking down Mulbarton getting the ball back up their left, Newcombe closing in to reclaim it sending a superb ball on for Nicholls to turn and take on into the area, strong as she breaks into the box, Anderson coming to close the angle, defenders trying to get back on her sliding in Nicholls gets the ball past the keeper to send it home to open the scoring 0-1.
Wymondham taking the lead with a little under 15 minutes left in the first half, Knights winning the ball back in the middle, Clarke on the move left side crossing early, McNorton winning the header for Mulbarton top of the area. Clarke attempting to get on past Love on the overlap as the pair look to exchange passes on the left side, Belsey reading it well for Mulbarton. Smith with time on the ball central for Mulbarton attempts the through ball for Lake, Kett intercepting at the back for Wymondham.
Jermy central back to go controlling the ball looks to feed it into Griffith’s path as she bursts into the box from the left, Kett she idling sees the ball back to her keeper. Smith having a go from all of 30 yards out, has a decent strike on her, not this time though as it drops kindly for Pearce to claim. A clever turn from Knights out left for Wymondham forwards for Love, she i turn with the dummy outside the D letting in roll on for Nicholls, Lincoln in on her making the challenge to deny a shot.
Lake pulling away looking to get in behind left into the box Newcombe quick to recover back on her to defend for Wymondham. Mungham-Gray getting up on the left for Mulbarton looking to support Jermy an Griffith as they battle for possession outside the area left side wins a corner. Put in from the left to the near post Griffith up to challenge the keeper, the ball out for a goalkick. Into the final 5 minutes of the 1st half the goal going a long way to lift Wymondham getting more of the ball looking to take the game t Mulbarton. Lincoln defending with Nicholls as she rounds her inside the box looking to get in on goal, frustrated when a goa kick is awarded against her and not the corner she wanted.
Newcombe getting up on the right swinging a cross into the Mulbarton box, cut out a strong appeal for hand ball but nothing doing. The ball behind for a corner from the right. In near side Love attacking it twisting as she looks to turn her header towards goal is wide across the target. An opportunity for Mulbarton as Griffith gets clear on the left side breaking on for the area, Pearce starts to come but hesitates not getting there, attempts to back track, Griffith striking the ball on the angle can only pick out the side netting. One last attack for Wymondham in the closing stages of the 1st half, Love up on the left putting a diagonal ball into Nicholls outside the D she spins it onto Youngs on the right has, Newcombe racing past her on the overlap putting the ball on for her, sends the cross into the six yard box, Love having made the run to get there can’t get a meaningful touch.
Half-time Mulbarton Belles Ladies 0-1 Wymondham Town Ladies
Wymondham with the single goal advantage at the break. Substitute, Laura Nicholls with the break through with a little over half and hour played put through on goal to send her shot past the keeper. A bright start from Mulbarton, Wymondham taking longer to settle the game competitive, even for a long period. Closing the ball down forcing errors. The goal giving Wymondham renewed confidence getting forwards well. A couple of chances for Mulbarton to get back on level terms not taken. Just a goal in it though still all to play for 2nd half.
A couple of changes for Mulbarton at the start of the 2nd half, Melissa Belsey on up top replacing Lake with Olivia Smith on at left back replacing Mungham-Gray. It’s Mulbarton to get the 2nd half underway, look for Griffith on the right the ball lost for a throw. Looking to get on from the start Smith sends the ball on through the middle for Jermy whose attempted through ball for Melissa Belsey is claimed by the advancing keeper. Wymondham coming on left side getting a throw in the ball crossed into area attacked near side by Russell her effort sent wide across goal.
Love nipping in to regain possession for Wymondham right side putting it forwards for Youngs looks to travel with it, Olivia Smith tackling well for Mulbarton. Griffith getting on left looks to play in Melissa Belsey central, getting away from Kett momentarily, Croft is around on the cover to clear the ball.
GOAL! A goal early in the 2nd half for Wymondham to double their lead. Croft with possession at the ball ,looks up seeing Clarke racing on free into space left side picks her out superbly with the diagonal ball, Clarke taking it on firing the cross in, Youngs there six yards out to attack volleying ball up high past the keeper into the back of the net 0-2.
Another change for Mulbarton, Megan Belsey having picked up an injury coming off with Molly Ryan coming on. Mulbarton press on the left winning a throw high, Griffith with the header on up the wing for Jermy to the by-line, her cross fed into the area, cleared but only as far as Alice Smith 25 yards out goes to strike the ball pulling her effort wide of the left post. Play more open in the 2nd half with the game becoming a little stretched a free kick on half way knocked on by Wymondham the ball won back from the resulting goal kick the cross angled in from the right clear inside the six yard box for a corner. The ball nodded on across goal cleared, Mulbarton can’t get out as Wymondham close down quickly the ball out to Nicholls right her cross coming to Knights central, can’t turn Mulbarton closing her down the clearance out to the left side the shot struck back in from all of 25 yards out smashed wide of the near post.
All action with Wymondham looking to turn the screw. Hunter finding some useful pockets of space for Mulbarton getting forwards on the right of attack combining with Ryan out wide, her cross into the Wymondham area cut out by Croft. Griffith has carried the game to Wymondham all game for Mulbarton a powerful runner on the ball comes on left side turning inside sends it on for Hunter in an advanced position left of the D, who into sends the return back inside her Griffith to strike, the attempt curling in has Pearce scrambling across her goal but wide of the far post.
A double change for Wymondham, players pulling up with cramp and other niggles, Hayley Kindred on for Kett with Francesca Catchpole on for Youngs. The substitutes linking up in attack for Wymondham in the right channel with Kindred sending the ball on for Catchpole to take on, Olivia Smith getting a foot in to deny her. Kindred with Nicholls moving right this time plays the pass inside for Catchpole central driving at the Mulbarton box, Lincoln standing form for Mulbarton winning the ball. Is a little testy between the sides a word needed from the referee. Pearce with a low save diving onto the ball as Griffith shoots from 30 yards out.
Players struggling with cramp, both sides carrying niggling injuries. Annie Smith on for Mulbarton. Alice Smith with another long range attempt, easily dealt with by Pearce. With more space to play into with the game stretched not being closed down as they were in the 1st half, Wymondham are looking more comfortable on the ball. Alice Smith coming right with Ryan out wide the cross into Hunter inside the box near side her shot hit wide across goal. Catchpole getting hold of the ball looking to drive on for Wymondham in attack, riding a challenge space opening up ahead of her the shot on left of the D, instead attempts to pick out Nicholls inside the area, the flag going up straight away.
Alice Smith looking to thread the pass in through the middle for Griffith, Croft composed to clear for Wymondham. Griffith taking the ball on fouled centrally giving Mulbarton a free-kick 3o yards from goal. Jermy and Hedtke over it. Jermy running in with the step over, Hedtke striking the shot goalwards her attempt over the crossbar. Knights continues to be busy on the pitch getting about to hustle possession and close Mulbarton down. Ryan pulling away left swinging a cross for Mulbarton is cut out at the near post. Another substitution for Mulbarton that sees Hedtke come off replaced by Meg Anderton.
Griffith strong running in towards the Wymondham D, giving the ball to Alice Smith positioned high she looks to clip it into the area for Melissa Belsey to break onto, Pearce alert out well to get hold of the ball before Belsey can pounce. A double change for Wymondham with Codman and Russell coming off, on come Lyla Studd with Youngs returning to the action. The clock ticking down a couple of minutes of regular time plus stoppages left. Griffith bringing the ball on left attacking for Mulbarton on for Jermy, Newcombe defends for Wymondham seeing the ball back to her keeper.
Knights on the right for Wymondham laying the ball on for Youngs, Annie Smith winning the ball back for Mulbarton. Knights on the ball left into Nicholls outside the D, looks to turn inside into the box, Lincoln defending for Mulbarton. 5 minutes of stoppage time to be played. Mulbarton pressing on looking for a late goal Jermy out left back for Alice Smith in the middle, Knights quick to close her down and clear. Nicholls looking to take the ball into the corner for Wymondham eat up valuable time, is shoved over, Anderton shown a yellow card.
Wymondham keeping the ball well in the closing moments frustrating Mulbarton, winning the ball inside their opponents half Catchpole with another forceful run towards the area, Lincoln in with the challenge the ball loose picked up by Love 25 yards out her shot sent in towards goal safely in Anderson’s gloves. Advantage played by the referee as Olivia Smith is tackled on halfway, Griffith with the ball pace in the left channel shoots wide from 25 yards out. That’s it the final whistle blows and Wymondham celebrate as they win the County Cup for a 3rd time and with it complete a treble winning season.
Full time Mulbarton Belles Ladies 0-2 Wymondham Town Ladies
An incredible crowd of 959 in attendance for this evenings Women’s County Cup Final a record attendance and another great sign the game is growing fast and worthy of being held in such a prestigious venue. An entertaining game from start to finish competitive, Mulbarton bright at the start Wymondham growing into the game getting the goal on the half hour to see them lead at the break, their 2nd goal coming early in the 2nd half. Taking their chances well. Mulbarton with a couple of their own sadly not taken remained in contention throughout, Wymondham with good game management towards the end looked solid defending their lead. A hugely successful season, they can look forwards now to making their FAWNL debut with a couple of derby games with Norwich to relish.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto the final Women’s Football East – Player of the Match of the season. One clear winner in the finish but as usual a few performances of note to mention first. For Mulbarton, Atlanta Griffith was a threat in attack throughout with some powerful runs looking to take the game to Wymondham and created some good opportunities in front of goal. Sophie Jermy too with good movement up top getting wide to receive the ball, Ellie Hunter finding pockets of space and getting onto join the attack. For Wymondham Mary Croft was strong at the back with a number of well timed tackles, reading the game. Kyla Love getting on to support the attackers using the wide areas well. The award though as it did in the ERWFL League Cup final goes to Katie Knights winning it on the night also was full of running getting about the pitch tackling and closing down breaking up a number of Mulbarton attacks.
Congratulations to Wymondham Town Ladies on winning the County Cup for a 3rd time and one their treble winning success.
Another season over great to see one through to the end finals got to as many finals as I could, afterall they are what the season is all about, celebrating the game which is bound to grow following this summer’s Euro’s a brief rest a few games to enjoy then pre-season will be upon us, know you’re all rearing to go already, but we all need a rest. An entertaining cup final played in front of a huge crowd. My thanks to Norfolk FA for giving me media accreditation very much appreciated. Put on a great event.
by Darren Gilham