Sunday 6th February
ERWFL Division One North
A trip down to Suffolk this Sunday to watch a game from ERWFL Division One North with leaders Needham Market Women taking on league newcomers Wootton Blue Cross Lionesses.
7 sides competing in ERWFL Division One North this season. Is a very young league in terms of the sides competing in it with Newmarket the old hands only joining the ERWFL in 2018. 3 newcomers too this season in Biggleswade United Ladies, Whittlesey Athletic Ladies and Wootton Blue Cross Lionesses.
Needham Market Women joining the ERWFL in 2019, were a fast emerging force within women’s football in Suffolk that has seen Ipswich Town Women dominate for several years now. The game in Suffolk needing to grow, Needham Market very much embracing their women’s side within the clubs set-up. 2 county cup final appearances already they will be hoping to make it a 3rd having reached the semi-finals once again this time Ipswich not entering a side. Hold a strong lead at the top of the ERWFL Division One North table losing just one of their 8 matches played so far. In fact should results go their way today they could even clinch the title. The best defensive record in the league it’s their goals scored that has set them apart with Needham Market having 4 out of the 5 top goal scorers . Lina Nagib with 23 goals from 15 played, Molly Hall 18 from 10, Ellie Rossiter has 15 from 13 played with Lois Balfour netting 14 times so far from 15 played. Looking strong for the title and with it promotion to the Premier Division.
Below Needham Market it is a highly competitive tussle for 2nd spot in the table, with just 5 points separating the sides place 2nd down to 6th. Wootton Blue Cross Lionesses right in the middle of the battle. The Bedfordshire side the newest of the lot formed just the season before this, assembling a strong squad with plenty of experience at this level and above. Joined BHWGFL Division One. Covid disrupting that season but opportunities for progression as the ERWFL opened it’s application pool wider to attract new sides. Wootton Blue Cross Lionesses moving into the regional set-up. A good start beating fellow newcomers Biggleswade 3-2 went on to lose there next 3 in league and cup before bouncing back with a 2-0 home win against Needham Market. Since then results have been up and down 4 wins and 5 defeats so far to sit 4th 2 points off 2nd spot. Also through to he semi-finals of the Bedfordshire Women’s County Cup where they will face fellow league side Biggleswade both looking to reach their first final.
Bloomfields the venue for today’s game home of all Needham market’s sides. The ground has grown along with the women’s setup since I first started following them. The 3G pitch with a large viewing area and small stand on one side beyond that the changing rooms and cafe above serving hot food and drinks. A balcony all round the top tier allowing for an eagles eye view of the pitch i was tempted to stay up there watch the game safe from the inclement weather, but I prefer being on the side lines and decided to take my chances. The weather already putting pay to the planned game I had several good alternatives and this an opportunity to see two sides I’ve yet so far been unable too. Heavy rain overnight, pretty gloomy with the threat of more rain a windy too the 3g pitch providing little protection from the elements.
Needham Market Women starting XI – Danielle Clarke, Nicole Pannifer, Niamh Thomas, Ele Catchpole, Jodie Sharpe, Nicole Henderson (C), Abbie Fisher, Mia Etheridge, Lina Nagib & Molly Hall. Subs – Eloise Ward, Lois Balfour Jo Brawn & Jessica Marriot.
Wootton Blue Cross Lionesses starting XI – Charlotte Cooper, Freya Opperman, Toni Mitchell, Georgia Hall, Charlotte Bedford (C), Cerys Edwards, Kim Mulgrew, Laura Taylor, Laura Simpson, Elena Lancaster & Giselle Randall. Subs – Rebecca Vass, Georgia Edwards, Jess Greaves & Jess Katsinas.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Needham Market to get the game underway kicking off 1st half wearing red shirts with black shorts and red socks. Wootton Blue Cross lined up opposite wearing blue shirts fading in shade to the waist, blue shorts and socks. The ball played back to the defence is put out to the right Nicole Pannifer on for Ellie Rossiter attacking up the flanks she has support from Mia Etheridge the pair exchanging passes before Wootton Blue Cross full back, Freya Opperman puts in the tackle on Rossiter to put the ball out for a throw in.
Rossiter recieving the ball off the throw in shifts round her marker getting into the box striking a shot on the angle rising but caught comfortably by Wootton Blue Cross keeper, Charlotte Cooper. Needham Market making a positive start coming on with the ball Ethridge central laying it on for Lina Nagib in the left channel, cuts it back across the top of the area aiming to pick out Etheridge who has continued her run, she is closed down by Wootton Blue Cross captain, Charlotte Bedford the ball knocked back to Needham Market’s captain Nicola Henderson in midfield, Cerys Edwards challenging her to regain possession for the visitors.
Needham Market with a crossfield ball to find Nagib left knocked down for Molly Hall 25 yards out goes to shoot her effort charged down. The hosts are moving the ball quickly getting players forwards the wind is strong blowing across the pitch Needham Market running into it 1st half. Giselle Randall leading the attack for Wootton Blue Cross sees the ball into her feet twists playing it out to Laura Simpson free on the left, spots the run for Elena Lancaster over on the right attempts to put the diagonal ball over the top however the wind catches it taking it out of play before Lancaster can chase it down.
Henderson fouled on halfway a free-kick for Needham Market, with Pannifer moving forwards right side, out to Rossiter inside to Abbie Fisher opens up her body looking to thread it in behind for Rossiter, the flag going up against her. Wootton Blue Cross with a change out of nothing as the ball is cleared from the back the wind catching it sending it on bouncing awkwardly for the Needham Market defence, don’t deal with it as Randall steals through into the box left of goal onto it striking the ball goalwards, Danielle Clarke coming to narrow the angle diving to her right full stretch to save turning the ball wide for a corner kick.
Wootton Blue Cross come right Kim Mulgrew on to Lancaster 25 plus yards out on the angle takes on the shot, wind assisted the ball racing across the area wide of the far post. The wind not helping Wootton Blue Cross in attack at all any through ball having too much on it seeing a good attack go to waste. Fisher plays the ball through for Nagib breaking clear of the defence left side, Cooper comes out to close her down hesitates for a split second as she leaves her area Nagib striking the ball against her spins up high into the air dropping behind Cooper wide of goal Nagib willing it to fall, but by the time it does the visitors have regrouped in defence closing her down.
Wootton Blue Cross come right Lancaster inside for Randall sees the ball cross her body 25 yards out turning into the shot the ball looping up but dropping straight into Clarkes arms. Rossiter frustrated as she is flagged offside with the hosts mounting a quick counter offensive. Rossiter posing Wootton Blue Cross a problem on the right of attack as she drives forwards with the ball laying it inside for Hall who spins it back into Rossiter’s path as she arrives into the box shooting puts the ball straight into the keeper.
Henderson with a powerful run through the middle, keeping hold of the ball pushed on into Hall’s feet the striker releasing it to the right as Rossiter gets in behind, just a split second too early the flag raised once again. Rossiter is linking up well with Pannifer on the right team mates at Ipswich previously Cooper though up to the edge of her area quickly to snatch up the ball before Rossiter can take advantage. Etheridge is pulled down attacking on the right a free-kick 25 yards out, Fisher over it sends in a cross towards the far post attacked, Hall up to meet it a glancing header the attempt wide.
Wootton Blue Cross break the ball fed on through the middle for Randall escaping into the left channel, Clarke reading it quickly out of her box to clear. The visitors keep possession spreading play to the right a shot from distance narrowly wide of the near post. A spell of pressure for Wootton Blue Cross, Randall out to Lancaster right her cross into the are headed clear by Ele Catchpole. Hall getting hold of the ball out left into the corner puts in a cross along the six yard box dropping to Rossiter far post her shot blocked by Hall. Needham Market win a free-kick wide left inside the Wootton Blue Cross half after Jodie Sharp is upended. The delivery into the box cleared comes straight to Henderson central 20 yards out her driven shot charged down by Lancaster.
GOAL! Needham Market build well through the middle numbers on the ball into Pannifer right threads it through to Rossiter in behind taking the ball into the box for the top corner wrapping her foot around the ball connects well with a rising shot power behind it Cooper with the slightest to touches can’t keep it out 1-0. Needham Market opening the scoring midway through the 1st half.
Needham Market up on the right a throw won into Etheridge has support from Pannifer the cross lofted into the area headed away by Bedford. Opperman in to tackle Rossiter to prevent the cross as Niamh Thomas plays a long ball to her from the back. Lancaster moving to the left as Simpson looks to release her Henderson comes sliding in with a strong tackle to win the ball.
GOAL! Wootton Blue Cross with a quick reply to pull the scores level once more. Pressure on the Needham Market defence Randall in control of the ball central 25 out plays it to Lancaster right she lays it into the area Randall after it left of goal, Clarke down bravely at her feet the ball blocked scramble away, out to the right side Needham Market don’t clear possession with Taylor right of the D takes on the shot a low strike angled back across the keeper to roll into the bottom corner 1-1.
Randall is making a nuisance of herself in attack for Wootton Blue Cross back to tackle Henderson the ball rolled back to Edwards she looks to play it forwards, the swirling wind however as it has before giving the attacks too much to do to chase it down. Rain falling too falling back to the cover under the balcony to keep the notepad dry. Nagid striding forwards with the ball left side checks inside top corner of the area letting loose a shot driven it straight at and safely held by Cooper.
Wootton Blue Cross doing their best to get to grip with the conditions putting some pressure on the Needham market defence coming right the ball crossed into the penalty spot Randall after it saved at the feet of the keeper before being scrambled away for a corner. A change for the visitors with Rebecca Vass coming on to join the attack with Edwards coming off. Etheridge getting into the box for Needham Market winning a corner off the keeper. Played in central headed on by the defence out to the left. Wootton Blue Cross break down the right Vass travelling with the ball her cross goes long out of play beyond the far post.
Is a good contest between Opperman and Rossiter as Needham market attack on the right Pannifer sending Rossiter on before the full back lunges in with the tackle. Needham Market send the ball up to Etheridge right side of the area cushions down a header to put the ball into Nagib central she in turn lays it out to Sharp looking to go clear on the left, Simpson tacking back well to challenge and get possession back for the visitors. Conditions are really poor the swirling wind and rain showers making it bitterly cold.
Vass on the ball for Wootton Blue Cross spins it out to Simpson on her right takes on the shot early looking to strike a looping shot up over the keeper. Not enough on it falls early straight into Clarke’s arms. A chance for Rossiter up top for Needham Market as she is put clear though the middle by Fisher, one on one with the advancing keeper waits for Cooper to commit taking the ball around her to the left, looking to drill the ball into an open goal, Opperman has recovered superbly however having gone with her putting a foot in to take the ball away from her.
The clock ticking down in the 1st half, Wootton Blue Cross mount an attack piling players forwards the ball fed through the centre out to Randall peeling away left top of the area on the angle attempts to use the outside of her boot to put the ball inside for Lancaster, Henderson back there to defend the ball back with Randall her shot charged down by Thomas. The half-time whistle blowing as Rossiter is flagged offside one final time.
Half-time Needham Market Women 1-1 Wootton Blue Cross Lionesses
All square at the break the sides drawing 1-1. Played in difficult conditions. Needham market starting brightly on the attack getting players forwards taking the game to Wootton Blue Cross. Creating chances pressuring the ball high and looking to break in behind the offside trap sprung on a few occasions. Ellie Rossiter putting the hosts in front midway through the half. Wootton Blue Cross responding well pressing the ball in the final 3rd and pulling level quickly. Took a while to get used to the condition the wind at there backs making it run on t attack making timing passes extremely hard. All in all an even contest with conditions unlikely to improve.
No changes as far as I can tell for either side at the break, Needham Market opting to stay out on the field during half time the sun trying to break through the clouds but plenty of grey still around as Wootton Blue Cross kick off the 2nd half kicking into the wind. Needham market immediately press the ball getting onto the Wootton Blue Cross defence to hustle the ball in the final 3rd prevent their opponents breaking out in attack.
GOAL! Needham Market’s pressing starting to the 2nd half brings an early rewards as the hosts attack Fisher 20 out right of the D with a ball knocked on into the box isn’t cleared properly Hall latching onto it right of the D striking the low shot along the ground across the keeper to find the bottom corner 2-1.
GOAL! A perfect start to the 2nd half is make even batter as Needham Market quickly add a 3rd goal. Nagib regaining possession in the middle on to Etheridge she plays a good diagonal pass out to Sharp on the move on the left wing using the wind to her advantage making an already speedy player look even quicker using its momentum to take the ball to the by line lays it back up to Hall waiting for it top corner to lift in a cross along the D to fall to Henderson far side she brings it down striking a fantastic shot up over the keeper into the goal beyond 3-1.
A great start to the 2nd half for Needham Market 2 quickfire goals to go 2 goals in front. Wootton Blue Cross come right side Lancaster tripped as she brings the ball on a free-kick 22 yards out right of the D, Vass over it goes for goal her effort high over the bar. Sharp caught out by the offside flag left side as Hall attempts to flick a crossfield pass onto her in attack. Fisher central winning the ball forwards to Rossiter right looks to go on Opperman forcing her to stay wide sliding in to put the ball out for a throw.
The weather’s changeable to say the least getting very dark a rainbow isn’t always a good sign you know a storm is on the way. Opperman allowed to get up the pitch left side a high cross into the area, Randall waiting for it to drop, Henderson back to deal with it for Needham Market. Opperman over a free-kick for Wootton Blue Cross to the left of the D 25 yards out struck low finds its way through to goal Clarke though right behind it.
Taylor comes right for Wootton Blue Cross her cross cut out by Henderson, Taylor has another go the ball back with her this time deflected behind for a corner kick. The ball defended at the near post comes back to Mulgrew another cross played into the six yard box Needham Market scrambling it away. Mitchell gets up on the right with the ball for Wootton Blue Cross her cross squared into the area over Randall on the penalty spot falls to Taylor beyond turns the ball goalwards, Clarke right behind it to save.
Sharp on the move with the ball on the left all the way for Needham Market turning into the box, Hall comes back to put in a strong but fair tackle. Simpson and Vass combine out on the right for Wootton Blue Cross the ball crossed into the area Taylor the target, Thomas dealing with it for Needham Market to clear. The wind has gotten stronger is bitter out there. Cooper out to the top corner off her area to block Rossiter’s stab on as she is played on by Pannifer.
Changes for Needham Market, off come Nagib, Thomas and Hall off on come Jo Brawn, Eloise Ward and Lois Balfour. The hosts with a corner kick on the right taken short before the cross is cut out deflected behind for a 2nd corner this time Wootton Blue Cross win it and break quickly Clarke needing to come hurtling out of her area to clear the ball. A change for Wootton Blue Cross with Jess Greaves coming on for Taylor.
Henderson with a shot off the crossbar for Needham market as the cross comes into her left of goal from the right. The weather horrible Needham market with a corner on the left the ball hanging up in the wind dropping dangerously far post Cooper fouled as she attempts to claim it. Appeals for a penalty (mainly from the crowd) as Brawn is down in the box after a coming together with Cooper nothing doing. Winds strong now anything not anchored down shifting. Needham Market come left Sharp lifting the ball over the top looking for Balfour the wind though taking it away from her.
A double change for Wootton Blue Cross with Lancaster and Simpson off for Jess Katsinas and Georgia Edwards. Really terrible out there now wind and rain, hail too, rubber from the pitch is blowing up onto my notepad. Difficult to play, Sharp off for Needham Market on comes Jessica Marriot. Pannifer on the left combining with brawn the pass back infield to Pannifer left of the D 20 out her shot blocked by Mulgrew. Getting very dark out there the clock ticking down.
GOAL! Needham Market regain possession central Etheridge on for Fisher 20 yards out right of the D, strikes the ball goalwards pace behind it Cooper can’t reach it as it flies over her and into the back of the net 4-1.
Needham Market have been strong in the 2nd half the ball won in midfield Henderson out to Rossiter drives on Opperman once again sliding in to take the ball away for a throw. Pressing on late in the game Fisher opening her body to release Balfour on the right puts a cross in along the area out to Brawn left side looks to hit it on the run first time slices it wide.
The final whistle blows, Thomas who’s taken over flag duties from Balfour in the 2nd half has had enough and makes a hasty retreat to a warm and more importantly dry changing room as Needham Market celebrate a win that leaves them on the cusp of winning the Division One North title.
Full time Needham Market Women 4-1 Wootton Blue Cross Lionesses
Honours even after the 1st half it was a devastating start to the 2nd half that saw Needham Market take control of the game scoring two quickfire goals to lead 3-1 at the start of the half. Were in control as condition grew worse, extremely difficult to play in towards the end. Wootton Blue Cross battling well in the 1st half despite a positive start from the hosts the wind seeing through ball runs on making it difficult responded well to falling a goal behind. Were undone at the start of the 2nd half and struggled to get back into it from there. By my reckoning Needham Market need one win from there final 3 games to ensure the title. That could be in a fortnights time at home to Haverhill Rovers, next weekend a stern test against Premier Division side Luton Town Ladies away.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match, it’s another tricky one but of course a few performances of note to mention first. For Wootton Blue Cross, Freya Opperman had her hands full with Rossiter for much of the game preventing a number of crosses ad denying her a goal scoring opportunity. Giselle Randall with a handful for the Needham Market defence at the back battling to win the ball and fashion chances for herself and her teammates. Elena Lancaster getting into some good positions throughout the game. For Needham Market, Ellie Rossiter was a constant threat on the right a good contest with Opperman getting into a number of good goal scoring positions opening the scoring. Mia Etheridge showing good intent going forwards taking the ball to Wootton Blue Cross and looking to set up others. Today’s award though goes to Needham market’s captain Nicola Henderson a strong performance in midfield winning the ball, and both tracking back to help the defence and get forwards to support the attack a superb strike to make it 3-1.
A rearranged fixture but a great opportunity to see two more sides in action. Appreciate the help with the team details at short notice. An entertaining game (expect little else from the ERWFL these days) albeit I could have done without the weather, was bitter out there.
by Darren Gilham