Sunday 17th April
Norfolk Women’s Division One
Keeping it local this Easter Sunday having clocked up the miles during the week with a cup final double. Back to league action today with a game from Division One and an opportunity to catch up with a couple of sides as Beccles Town Ladies host Sprowston FC Women in their final home game of the season.
Has been quite a while since I’ve seen Beccles Town Ladies in action, so much so I drove straight past their ground and ended up on the common beyond. Got there in the end however, Beccles put back into Norfolk Women’s Division One after the league original plan for 3 divisions fell by the way side and two larger divisions, One and Two were created. Beccles Town Ladies suffering more than most from resembling a decent squad then seeing players move on just a quickly, injuries too affecting development. One of their new players, Mae Hughes badly injured in a serious car accident on her way to a Beccles game earlier in the season, spending a number of weeks in hospital. Home now and recovering, at the game to day to watch her teammates in action.
Despite the set backs manager Alan Runnacles is optimistic for the following season, bringing players in, with experience too to bolster a young squad. Benefitting from players unsettled at local rivals Bungay Town Ladies. Made a terrible start to the season with 5 straight defeats and some eye watering score lines too. As the season has progressed however have picked up some decent results and a positive end to the season results wise could yet see then push up the table a place or two. Lola Barber-King, Beccles captain and top scorer with 24 goals.
Sprowston FC Women have established themselves in Norfolk’s top flight, a club that benefits from a very strong youth setup, bringing players through. Currently in mid-table in Division One having struggled to pick up points consistently in the first half of the season a very strong March which saw them win 4 straight league games has pulled them clear of the bottom sides and with 3 to play a top half finish is possible. Kate Morris and Bryony Brierley, Sprowston’s top scorers with 13 and 12 goals respectfully.
Beccles Town FC nestled amongst a multi-sports facility. The football ground featuring a large grass pitch, wide with a little bit of a slope. A covered stand along one side of the ground with a tea hut beside. The weather beautiful considering it’s a bank holiday weekend. Bright and warm in the sunshine on Easter Sunday a breeze strong at times blowing from one end of the pitch to the other.
Beccles Town Ladies starting XI – Megan Gowing, Georgia Tiffen, Leanne Muffett, Charlotte Power, Poppy Wilson, Abigail Bell, Lucy Robbens, Elisha Bower, Lauren Purling, Lily Bulloch & Lola Barber-King (C). Subs – Kelly Collins, Vicky Bloomfield & Bethan Owen.
Sprowston FC Women starting XI – Jess Luff, Rosie Graham, Courtney Leggett, Maria Braithwaite, Bailey Curtis, Lois Irving (C), Holly Whayman, Oshea Winter, Kiera Braithwaite, Kate Morris & Katie Fray. Subs – Chloe Shipman.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Sprowston without goalkeeper, Jade Knights after being sent off in their cup tie with Dussindale & Hellesdon Women, Jess Luff in goal for today’s match. Just one substitute named on the bench. Beccles with 3 to call upon from the bench to get the game underway kicking off the first half wearing white shirts with black shorts and socks. Sprowston opposite wearing blue coloured shirts with navy sleeves, navy shorts and blue socks. The ball put out to the right, Sprowston winning the throw in.
The ball brought down and fed into attacker Katie Fray, Charlotte Power getting back at her in defence for Beccles to win the ball back. The visitors pressing the ball out for a goal kick, Fray winning it for Sprowston breaking forwards, Power in ahead of her again to nod the ball back into goalkeeper, Megan Gowing’s gloves. Beccles come through the middle Lucy Robbens on for Lily Bulloch 35 yards out central, has captain Lola Barber-King to her right plays the ball into her path Barber-King taking it on the by-line before firing a cross along the face of the Sprowston goal, no one running in to turn it home.
Barber-King looking to move to the right as Beccles attack, Bailey Curtis defending for Sprowston. The ball passed up to Barber-King 25 yards out back to goal, control well spinning away to her left turning for the Sprowston box a burst of pace to get her inside right of goal, lifts her shot up over the crossbar. Kate Morris pulling to the left in attack taking the ball inside sending a diagonal ball up into the Beccles area looking for Fray, Power winning the header for the hosts. Despite it being a large pitch you can almost drop a hat on the players at times as players get drawn towards the ball.
Barber-King is looking to turn and take on the defence whenever she can, getting half a yard on the back line as Abigail Bell wins the ball in midfield breaks into the left channel, Curtis is quick herself getting back on her to tackle get the ball back to goalkeeper, Jess Luff. Sprowston mount an attack, Keira Braithwaite central into Fray left of goal 25 yards out controls comes inside looking to make room for a strike, puts her foot through the ball, dipping as it heads for the inside of the left post, Gowing with a fantastic save diving down to her right to push the ball behind for a corner kick.
GOAL! The corner form the left is played into the near post, chested down by the Sprowston attack she moved after the ball, the defender going with her gives her a push, the referee pointing to the spot. Penalty! Keira Braithwaite placing the ball on the spot strikes it hard rising to the left of goal, Gowing going the right way can’t get near it as Braithwaite peels away to celebrate the ball striking the back of the net. 0-1 The visitors taking the lead inside the opening 10 minutes.
Sprowston straight on the attack form the restart go down the right winning a throw in, the ball lifted into the area, Power defending sends it behind for a corner kick.
GOAL! A minute after opening the scoring from the penalty spot, Sprowston double their advantage from another set-piece. The ball put into the box from the right, Gowing comes for it gets caught under the ball at the near post, Holly Whayman running in behind for Sprowston stooping to nod the ball over the line 0-2.
Beccles hit with two quickfire goals, Elisha Bower with a strong run on the left carrying the ball on squares a cross into the six yard box, Luff catching it into her midriff with Barber-King closing in. Another opportunity for Beccles moments later played into the top of the box for Barber-King, a low strike fired in towards goal, Luff with a sharp save with her feet, her defence getting the ball back to her.
The ball lifted on through the middle as Sprowston get forwards bouncing, Fray on Power’s shoulder as they pair battle for possession, fray getting an attempt on goal away her effort lifted wide 20 yards out. Sprowston hustling the ball 25 yards out gain possession Fray on the right with and angled drive in Gowing claiming at her near post. Sprowston with a throw high on the left played inside for Morris lines up a shot inside the D, her strike charged down by Poppy Wilson. Barber-King picking the ball up on halfway driving forwards, looking to get away from the defence, Curtis’ pace to the rescue as she gets the sliding tackle in to put the ball back to her keeper to claim.
GOAL! 20 minutes played and Sprowston hammer home there advantage by racing to a 3 goal lead attacking on the right Oshea Winter playing the ball on players drawn across to deal with the growing threat the cross coming into the box, Wilson has to clear as she comes near post. Morris left unmarked at the far post as the ball put back out to the right isn’t cleared and comes back in finding Morris who can simply pick her spot. 0-3.
GOAL! As with the opening goals, Sprowston again find a quickfire double to race into a 4 goal lead. Whayman on the ball in midfield, bringing it on no one closing her down, sets her sights from all of 30 yards out right side, gets plenty of pace and dip behind her shot, fired across the keeper, Gowing dives down gets her fingertips to it but not enough to keep it out 0-4.
Beccles well and truly on the back foot as the referee calls for a drinks break, a much needed chance to regroup midway through the 1st half. Sprowston make a change Chloe Shipman on for Courtney Leggett. The hosts attack from the restart Robbens up to Bulloch, Barber-King in close support as she heads the ball down to the right Barber-King taking it on into the box right of goal to the by-line a shot/cross stopped by Luff at her near post the ball cleared falls to Bowers top of the D, she strikes the ball, runs wide of the far post.
Sprowston with a corner on the right the ball in defended by Robbens put back out to the corner taker, played into Fray top of the area 20 yards out her shot fired back in with venom striking one of her own teammates. The long ball forwards through the middle causing Beccles a few issues as they don’t deal with the bouncing ball, Fray stealing in ahead of Power lobs the ball over from 20 yards out. Beccles making a change Muffett coming off at right back replaced by Vicky Bloomfield.
A free-kick for Sprowston on halfway, captain Lois Irving over the ball, puts it up into the area, Gowing with a good claim taking it at her near post. Bloomfield with a crucial intercept as Keira Braithwaite central looks to thread a pass on for Morris pulling left. Morris and Fray’s movement up top pulling the Beccles defence out of shape causing problems.
GOAL! Purling gets hold of the ball for Beccles on the right travelling forwards moves infield laying it on for Robbens as she continues her run towards the area, Robbens threading a good pass into the box, left of goal both Purling and Bulloch after it, Purling giving way for Bulloch to stab past the keeper and pull a goal back 1-4.
Beccles break well from a Sprowston corner, Bell on for Barber-King races forwards travelling with the ball, once again Curtis has the burst of speed to catch her and sliding in to tackle does enough to send the ball behind for a corner. The corner put in near side headed clear back out to the left for a throw by Curtis.
GOAL! Attacking from the throw in top of the area, Purling on the ball takes it across the passing to Bell right of the D, her first touch seeing her shift the ball inside to evade her marker then shoots sending a rising effort in under the bar, Luff leaping to try and stop it 2-4.
Beccles getting a further goal back to half the deficit, much needed after conceding 4 in the opening 20 minutes. Luff down from the save having fallen on her back has cracked her head on the ground. Needs treatment before continuing. 5 minutes left to play in the first half. Kelly Collins on for Beccles replacing Tiffen in defence. Called into action as Fray battles to get in behind seeing a shot blocked the rebound from distance fired over.
Barber-King looks to take the ball right, lacks support as she holds the ball up, Rosie Graham closing in to tackle win the ball back for Sprowston. Maria Braithwaite winning the header in the centre of defence as Bell plays it up for Barber-King. The clock ticking down in the first half Morris looks to get away on the left, Bloomfield with a well timed tackle seeing the ball out for a throw.
Half-time Beccles Town Ladies 2-4 Sprowston FC Women
Both sides staying out of the field at half-time. Sprowston with a great start racing into a 4-0 lead. Beccles with a few errors giving themselves a mountain to climb, nevertheless have created chances themselves and pulling 2 goals back towards the end of the 1st half has chanced the complexion of the match totally and given them a way back into a game that might otherwise have been out of sight. Still will need to improve at the back if Sprowston aren’t to find more goals.
The breeze looks to have become stronger at the start of the 2nd half, favouring Beccles now. Sprowston with a change Leggett back on in defence as Shipman moves out to the right of attack. Keira Braithwaite the player off. Bethan Owen on for Beccles in place of Bulloch. The visitors to get the 2nd half underway. Shipman with the ball moving forwards tackled by Collins. Beccles winning a free-kick inside the Sprowston half played up into the box, headed clear by Maria Braithwaite.
A scrappy start to the 2nd half as play is compacted over on one side of the pitch . Owen on the ball central attacking out to the right crossed back into her inside the box brings down on her chest the ball won cleared by the defence back to the right, fired straight back in across the six yard box dropping to Barber-King she controls opens up her body and lifts a shot wide across the face of goal. Luff is down inside her goal clearly struggling with her head injury needs to come off. With no replacement an outfield player needed to don the gloves, Shipman is the volunteer putting on a bid and going in between the sticks with Keira Braithwaite back on in the middle.
Fray causing a nuisance in attack 20 yards out heading the ball on breaking into the area left of goal, Power tackling, is hurt and Fray goes down over the top of her the ball running behind for a corner. Played in near side from the left, is cleared back to the taker, lifted back in high near side, is allowed to bounce a moment of panic inside the six yard box before being scrambled behind. Another corner left played into Leggett outside the box left side is quickly closed down by Wilson.
Bower with the ball comes through the middle a strong run moves right, Graham closing in lunging in to tackle the ball pushed on for the keeper to clear, Simpson rushing on clearing with her feet as barber-King slides in on her. Owen moving left winning Beccles a throw in high up the pitch the ball crossed into the area Braithwaite central jumping to get her head on it, falls straight to Purling behind at the far post her glancing header turned goalwards safely in the keepers gloves.
Beccles coming on better attacking 2nd half, but risk getting hit on the counter. Bell looking to put the ball on for Barber-King, Curtis defending. A free-kick for the visitors on half way sees Fray breaking in behind the Beccles defence left into the box, sends her low strike wide beyond the far post. Beccles defence getting out of shape as Sprowston push on in attack, Collins tackling Morris as she comes inside from the right.
Graham with a superb diagonal ball up to Fray top of the D, Wilson sliding in to tackle for Beccles. Leggett defending up the other end for Sprowston as Bell sends the ball up to Owen 20 yards out right channel. Owen’s last action as she comes off with Bulloch back on. 20 minutes of the 2nd half played. Morris pushing on with the ball through the middle, Fray ahead of her providing the run, Morris with the forward pass, well read by Collins who is well positioned to cut out and clear. Graham on for Whayman out to Morris on the right her cross into the area cleared by Power.
An outfield player in goal for Sprowston, Beccles have yet to test Shipman, the game stretched there is more time on the ball than some are allowing themselves. Fray with a scuffed shot 20 yards out running safely through to the keeper. Shipman taking a clean catch at her near post as Beccles lift a high ball in from the right. The ball sent up top bouncing Bulloch looking to get on the end of it for Beccles lobs it wide from 25 yards out. Power in to charge down Fray’s shot as she brings the ball down 20 yards out. Purling driving on for Beccles right side comes inside running into traffic, as both Whayman and Leggett close her down.
GOAL! Sprowston press forwards the Beccles defence once again out of shape as Irving lifts the pass up towards the top of the D, is scrambled clear out to the right, Morris latching onto it running on before squaring a cross into the six yard box putting it on a plate for Fray for a simple tap in into the back of the net 2-5.
Sprowston restoring their 4 goal cushion with 15 minutes left to play. Get the ball back straight away from the restart fed into Fray right inside the box, Collins with a well timed tackle to deny her a shot.
GOAL! As in the first half one goal brings two for Sprowston as they cause chaos at the back for Beccles again the host defence falling back but not in a line the diagonal ball finding Morris clear on the right inside the box where she lifts her shot over the keeper to score 2-6.
Sprowston’s defence doing a good job of protecting there keeper not falling too deep, the ball put on by Bell in the middle finding Bower up top she headers it down into Barber-King right of the D, her first time shot sent up over the bar. Bulloch collecting the ball on the wing for Beccles turning inside heading for the box, is tackled by Maria Braithwaite. Shipman is untroubled in goal for Sprowston a rush of blood though as she comes racing out of her box to clear when she had time to see it roll into her gloves as Beccles threaten to break, the kick works though.
Purling right driving on with the ball, shifting inside to cross the ball cut out by Leggett. Fray battling through the middle taking the ball on for Sprowston has Morris moving inside the box ahead of her right side, getting the pass into the the angle against her Morris’ shot is held by Gowing. Barber-King taking the ball on down the right flank checking back up the line to the top of the area flashes a ball into Bower 20 out left of the D, her touch bringing her inside for the shot, is leaning back as she sends her effort over the bar.
The game moving into stoppage time Sprowston on the attack fed into Fray right channel outside the box angles a shot in across goal low, Gowing down well to push the ball away to her right.
Full time Beccles Town Ladies 2-6 Sprowston FC Women
Full time and Sprowston come away with a 6-2 that lifts them into 6th place in the Division One table. A strong start racing into a 4 goal lead seeing them take control of the game, with Fray and Morris up top causing problems for the Beccles defence throughout. The hosts with a mountain to climb errors seeing them concede early on a 4-0 looked in real trouble but had created chances and two well worked goals saw them pull it back to 4-2 at the break. An enforced keeper change for Sprowston but Beccles never really tested her as the visitors continued to look dangerous in the final 3rd going on to add another quickfire double to make it a comfortable result.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this afternoon’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. A few performances to mention first. Starting with Beccles Lola Barber-King created a number of chances up top an on another day may very well have scored a hat-trick. Charlotte Power at the back making a number of critical tackles and blocks. For Sprowston it’s hard to pick a single player out as their were good performances all over the pitch, Holly Whayman composed in midfield moving the ball well scoring twice. “Well done Bailey” was a common cry throughout the match the defender making so great tackles. Up top Kate Morris was strong peeling off the defence to make herself available narrowly edged out by her strike partner, Katie Fray who was a handful for the Beccles defence all game, battling for the ball and creating numerous opportunities.
An enjoyable East Sunday at Beccles, great to catch up with both sides and others in the footballing community. My thanks to both sides for providing me with the team details as always much appreciated.
by Darren Gilham