Cup Final Special – AFC Sudbury Women v Needham Market Women

Friday 6th May

Suffolk Women’s County Cup Final

Back down the A12 for my 2nd Suffolk cup final of the week. Following Tuesday’s SGWFL League Cup Final season climax won by Holland Ladies it’s the turn of the County Cup. The showpiece event in the women’s football calendar being played at The JobServe Community Stadium home of League Two side Colchester United FC between AFC Sudbury Women & Needham Market Women.

This evening’s prize

The competition dominated by Ipswich Town Women since the Suffolk and Norfolk County Cups became separate competitions in 2010. Have featured in 9 of the last 10 finals victorious in all including a 7 game streak before withdrawing from the competition as their excellent growth saw the club reach the 3rd tier of the women’s game. Several sides aiming to be as successful in Suffolk as the game continues to grow at pace and this evenings finalists chief amongst them. Both emerging as a leading force in the game, Needham Market Women winning the ERWFL Division One title to win promotion to the Premier Division the 5th tier of the women’s football pyramid. AFC Sudbury Women aiming to join them as they make a late charge to claim the Division One South title.

 Sudbury the only other side bar Ipswich to have won the Suffolk Women’s County Cup since it’s inception in 2010. AFC Sudbury Ladies as they were back then beating Brandon Town Ladies 5-0. Is a very different Sudbury side now, AFC Sudbury Women now fully integrated with the men’s club and academy with a Reserves side backing up the 1st team playing in the Suffolk Women’s Premier Division. Goal scorers throughout the side Jess Allen is leading the way with 17. ERWFL Division One South proving a strong league this season with new sides joining was a 5 way battle for the title for a long period Sudbury with games in hand remaining the dark horse now with their rivals having completed their fixtures in 4th Sudbury are 8 points behind leaders Cheshunt FC who have finished on 35 points. Sudbury with 3 games left will be Champions if results go their way. Are also in the final of the ERWFL Plate.

  Needham Market Women burst onto the scene reaching the County Cup Final in their debut season just 4 season’s ago. Like Sudbury are fully integrated with their men’s club and academy set-up. Establishing a Reserves side to back up the 1st team that has gone from strength to strength joining the ERWFL have gone on to win Division One North with ease this season winning 10 of their 12 league matches scoring gaols by the bucket load, Lina Nagib with 26 to her name from 20 appearances. Have recruited a few ex-Ipswich players adding valuable experience to the squad with both Molly Hall and Ellie Rossiter having prolific seasons with 19 and 16 goals respectfully. Lois Balfour too celebrating her fair share of goals on 16 too. Made their 2nd County Cup Final appearance last season again losing out to Ipswich. Now making back to back finals like Sudbury will be fancying their chances.

Road to the Final

The early rounds of any county cup competition can see some eye watering results as teams across all tiers are drawn together. In Sudbury’s case it was a walk over for both the 1st and 2nd Rounds seeing them into the quarter finals. Needham Market were at home to Mildenhall Town Women in the 1st Round back in September, Racked up the goals against the Cambs Division Two side winning 20-0. A similar score line in the Round as they were away to Halesworth Town Women bottom of the Suffolk Women’s Championship 22-0 this time around.

  Both sides were strong in the quarter finals as they came up against sides in the Suffolk Premier Division. Sudbury away to Brantham Athletic Ladies winning the game 10-1 to progress to the last 4, Georgia Sleep netting 4 goals. While Needham Market were 9-0 winners at home to Woodbridge Town Ladies with Molly Hall also on target for 4 goal. Into the semi-finals played at neutral venues Sudbury taking on a rejuvenated Haverhill Rovers Ladies. Luiza Silva on target to score a hat-trick seeing them into the final courtesy of a 3-1 win. Meanwhile Needham Market were taking on Sudbury’s reserve side in the other semi-final, Lina Nagib with a brace and Jodie Sharp with a hat-trick seeing the club into their 3rd final in 4 seasons winning 5-0.

 The JobServe Community Stadium, home of League Two side Colchester United FC the venue for this evenings final. Great to see more County Cup finals taking place at venues such as this, Portman Road also hosting the women’s finals previously. Has hosted a women’s county cup final before aswell as a Lionesses match. Situated just off the A12 with alot of parking the main stand open to fans with sections for both the Sudbury and Needham Market support the large grass pitch looking great. Suffolk FA putting on a fantastic event to showcase the game one of 6 finals being played here. The weather again warm and dry little chance of a shower.

 

AFC Sudbury Women

AFC Sudbury Women starting XI – Millie Carter, Boni Shepherd (C), Ronni Harrison, Amber Provan, Teigan McHale, Kate Edwards, Phoebe Guiver, Isabella Crawford, Alex Penny, Evie Creaton & Jess Allen. Subs – Faith Candice, Sophie Jeffrey, Tye Smith, Kaylee Dodd, Luiza Silva.

Needham Market Women

Needham Market Women starting XI – Dani Clarke, Nicole Pannifer, Niamh Thomas, Laura Bloomfield, Ele Catchpole, Nicola Henderson (C), Abbie Fisher, Mia Etheridge, Ellie Rossiter, Lina Nagib & Lois Balfour. Subs – Eloise Ward, Paige Wakefield, Jo Brawn, Jodie Sharp & Molly Hall.

(roll on roll off substitutes)

  The crowd in good voice before the match both sides with great support, it’s Needham Market to get this season’s County Cup final underway kicking off 1st half wearing red shirts and socks with black shorts, Sudbury lined up opposite in an all yellow kit. The ball played out to the right side with Ellie Rossiter looking to get forwards for Needham Market, Boni Shepherd defending, Sudbury’s captain seeing the ball out for a throw in. The ball contested over on the far side of the pitch as both sides jostle for possession in the early exchanges.

  Ex-Sudbury player, Mia Etheridge tackling to win the ball on the right sending it forwards for Lois Balfour to attack edge of the box, Teigan McHale getting the challenge in to win the ball back for Sudbury. Lina Nagib, through the middle with support from Etheridge and Abbie Fisher the ball spread out to the left wing as Niamh Thomas looks to get on from full back, cutting inside, Amber Provan comes to face her tackling to see the ball out for a throw. Good distance on it into Etheridge inside the box controlling the ball down into her feet looking to turn and shoot, Provan close on her getting her foot on the ball to send it out for another throw.

Amber Provan winning the header for Sudbury

  Needham Market making the brighter start going forwards with the ball Sudbury keeping a good shape readily regaining possession, Nagib battling her way through in the left channel eventually outnumbered, Ronni Harrison getting hold of the ball for Sudbury. Fisher central lays the ball back to centre back Ele Catchpole who sends a long diagonal ball out to the right Rossiter and Etheridge playing a one two finding no way through the Sudbury defence. Sudbury launch a quick counter offensive with a diagonal pass forwards finding Alex Penny running in behind clear on the right running on sends the cross into Jess Allen inside the box turns the ball goalwards, Needham Market goalkeeper, Dani Clarke down smartly to her right to save push the ball behind for a corner kick. Fired in with pace low at the near post Allen turning to strike it can’t get a touch as the ball runs on for Needham Market to launch clear.

   Both sides taking advantage of the pitches width Etheridge strong on the right moving forwards whipping a cross into the top of the Sudbury area is cleared by Harrison at the back. Pushing up almost to half way at times there is space in behind for Sudbury to exploit and they have pacy players in their side, Penny sending it on through the middle for Allen running clear into the left channel, Clarke has to come running out of her box to deal with the threat. Balfour plays a great pass on for Rossiter racing in behind through the middle into the box, McHale getting back to slide in and tackle as goalkeeper Millie Carter closes the gap, Rossiter amongst those appealing to referee Nick Ward but no penalty the ball out for a throw on the left.

  Catchpole playing the ball on for Thomas away on the left for Needham Market, Harrison closing her down the ball gone for a throw, good distance reaching the area, Provan up to head the ball away. 

 GOAL! On 10 minutes the deadlock is broken Sudbury’s turn to press a high line the middle of the park congested Kate Edwards winning the ball plays a fantastic ball in behind for Evie Creaton to run onto breaking clear in the left speedy travelling towards the box shoots on the angle the ball driven forwards, Clarke down sharply gets something on it but not enough to deflect it wide as the ball nestles in the back of the net 1-0.

Evie Creaton opens the scoring for Sudbury

Needham Market get on the attack from the restart captain Nicola Henderson on for Nagib left side a powerful run forwards getting into the box, slowed up by Harrison, lays it back to Balfour 20 yards out who curls a shot narrowly over the crossbar. Nagib looking to get the ball into her feet run at the Sudbury defence at every opportunity sends it across the top of the area picking out Balfour who sees her low shot blocked by McHale. Catchpole at the back with a timely interception as Harrison coming on up the right attempts the through ball to put Allen away in behind the defence.

GOAL! Sudbury double their advantage the ball won in the middle by Edwards her pass defence splitting pass sending Creaton clear as she breaks inside from the left closing in on the area left of the D, Clarke coming out to close her down makes a blocking save as Creaton’s shot shrikes her body, the ball spinning loose central, Allen is alert snatching onto it a stabs the ball goalwards 2-0.

Jess Allen firing Sudbury into a 2 goal lead

  A great start for Sudbury getting into a 2 goal lead inside the opening 16 minutes. Showing lots of energy Sudbury hustle the ball centrally put on for Penny on the right side, looks to driven on, Thomas tackling to deny her. Rossiter providing the outlet for Needham Market on the right wing pace runs on with the ball sending a shot in on the angle 25 yards out, Carter behind it with a safe pair of hands any spills and Nagib was closing her down fast. Penny taking the ball on right flashing a cross into the six yard box, a the ball sliced goalwards off a Needham Market boot, Clarke reacting instinctively down to save the ball. 

  Isabella Crawford finding Penny on the right, up against Catchpole looking to spin in behind the defender, Catchpole gets her tackle right to put the ball out for a throw. Penny is away in the clear on the right as a defensive clearance from Shepherd at the back finds her running on wide her shot/cross flies across the face of goal Clarke unconcerned. Harrison strong up against Nagib as she is put in on the left by Catchpole carrying the ball out from the back for Needham Market. 

  Rossiter out on the right springs the offside and takes the ball on towards the box, Shepherd recovering after her sliding in as she reaches the by-line to send the ball away for a corner. In from the right twice Sudbury defend putting it out for another corner the 3rd coming in more central, Catchpole under it inside the six yard box heading her attempt over the bar. Closing in on half an hour played Needham market press forwards Nagib out left crossfield to Rossiter on the right has Etheridge ahead of her takes the ball on slotting a cross into Balfour inside the area, Harrison seeing the threat emerging getting in tight on Balfour to stop her getting a shot away.

Needham Market’s Mia Etheridge

   Allen pressing the Needham Market back line steals the ball 25 yards out and bursting in behind right of goal flashes a cross in Clarke down on it well with Creaton running in far post. Nagid sends Rossiter away with the ball on the right for Needham Market running on her touch into the box a little heavy as Carter comes to save sliding in Rossiter leaves the ground with a somewhat reckless challenge feet up as she attempts to get the ball Carter holding onto it despite being hurt in the collision. Play paused whilst she recieves treatment but is up and okay to play on. 

  Needham Market’s build up play is slower than Sudbury’s giving them time to get back into their positions whereas when Sudbury regain possession they are rapid in their counter play with Creaton, Allen and Penny all breaking. Provan winning it at the back for Sudbury clipping the ball into Allen 30 out who sends it through to Creaton running in behind her left she plays an early cross out to the right looking for Penny, this time though their progress is halted by the offside flag.

GOAL! 5 minutes left to play 2nd half and a much needed goal back for Needham Market, as Nagib ploughing her way forwards is fouled halfway inside the Sudbury half. Fisher on the ball looks to go for goal a long way out but connects well getting the ball up and down dipping dangerously for Carter back on her line, the ball smashing down off the crossbar into the six yard box with players closing in, Catchpole getting her head to it as it bounces up to turn home 2-1.

Abbie Fisher’s free-kick on its way to hit the crossbar

Ele Catchpole with the header to pull a goal back for Needham Market

  Sudbury aggrieved feeling it wasn’t a foul in Nagib in the first place. Attack on the left Guiver on for Creaton, drives on tackled by Pannifer for Needham Market. Rossiter bringing down a crossfield ball on the right well moving forwards top of the area strikes a vicious shot wide across the face of goal. The game moving into stoppage time in the first half Needham Market encouraged by their goal getting forwards scrapping for the ball left with Fisher supporting Nagib lifted on into the area for Balfour her attack halted by a raised flag.

Needham Market striker, Lois Balfour

  Balfour with good hold up play on the left shielding the ball has Thomas racing forwards on the overlap puts the pass into her path taking it on Thomas moves inside, looking to get around Harrison, the full back flicking out a leg to win the ball back. 

Half-time AFC Sudbury Women 2-1 Needham Market Women

  A good contest so far a 2-1 lead for Sudbury at the break with a good start inviting Needham Market on finding gaps in behind to get their attacking players in on goal opening the scoring on 10 minutes a 2nd added on 16. The ball hotly contested throughout Needham Market on the back foot finding some joy on the right with Rossiter with Nagib too running at the defence needed the next goal and found it with 5 minutes left to play in the half, setting it up nicely for the 2nd 45.

  Sudbury to get the 2nd half underway, no changes for either side as of yet the ball played left Edwards with the ball, on for Creaton but comes to nothing.

GOAL! A fantastic start to the 2nd half… if you’re a Sudbury fan as they win the ball back in defence left side Shepherd on for Creaton racing away on the wing travelling into the box fires a cross into the six yard box, Allen her target, up against Catchpole the defender challenging the ball deflected out to the right and is blasted into the back of the net by Penny to make it 3-1!

Alex Penny puts Sudbury into a 3-1 lead early in the 2nd half

  A blow for Needham at the start of the 2nd half, restart the game going left Nagib with Balfour, the Sudbury defence keeping a solid shape. Allen getting to the by-line on the left with the ball is challenged by Pannifer eventually winning a corner. The ball put into the area, Clarke comes a long way out of her six yard box has to get something on it a fist knocking it down away to the right a shot blasted back in to the angle is blocked. Needham Market make a change early in the 2nd half bringing off Pannifer, with Jodie Sharp on. 

  Sudbury have looked to be more energetic right from the start and a lively at the start of the 2nd half. Creaton attacking on the left has Allen up with her on her inside squares the ball to her goes into the box, Bloomfield, closing her down to defend for Needham Market. Henderson in the middle passing the ball out to Rossiter on the right has Sharp with her pace going past her taking the  ball on as she drifts infield. Sharps cross fizzed into the six yard box his headed clear at the far post landing right of the D, Rossiter is arriving to curl a low shot in towards goal can only find Carter who saves comfortably. 

Needham Market’s Ellie Rossiter

  Shepherd defends against Rossiter on the right a throw high up the pitch, helped on into the box the cross comes in but no one attacking it as Carter catches unhindered. Bloomfield with a great ball forwards for Rossiter on the right wing travelling with it Shepherd back with her forced to concede a corner. In from the right the delivery is met by Etheridge at the near post her header put wide. Half chances created for Needham Market, Sudbury make their first change bringing on Kaylee Dodd for Shepherd, Edwards donning the armband. 

 Nagib holding off challenges turning inside from the left to centre attempts to find Rossiter on the right, Sudbury giving away the throw. Needham Market winning a free-kick inside the Sudbury half similar to the one they had first half. Fisher on it again and again she goes for goal well struck this time though Carter can see it drop safely wide of her left post. Sudbury looking to keep it solid at the back not willing to break as often that said when they get an opportunity they’ll take it Edwards putting Allen on left cuts inside as Needham Market get bodies back into their box her shot cut out by Etheridge. 

  The game stretched opens up as Creaton is sent away on the left towards the area Clarke comes rushing out to charge her down the ball landing in the middle, Guiver taking on the shot from distance with the Needham Market goal exposed, Clarke though back peddles enough stretching up her arm to push the dropping ball down to the right Dodd latching onto it seeing her strike charged down. Sudbury win a corner on their right curled in over the penalty spot Edwards rising at the back post can’t get a touch.

  Nagib as picked up an injury and is struggling for Needham Market, a blow can’t continue, helped off far side, attacker, Jo Brawn comes on. Sudbury too with another change Tye Smith on in attack replacing Allen. 20 minutes left to play players tiring, more changes with Molly Hall coming on, an attacker for a defender with Thomas coming off. Smith straight away flagged offside as Guiver with Edwards look to turn play around in the middle of the park. 

  Hall on halfway with a good flick on for Etheridge right cuts inside looking to get in behind her marker, Penny doing well against her getting the ball back for Cater to clear. Luiza Silva comes on for Sudbury replacing Guiver. Smith with the ball turning in from the right attacking the box her shot sliced away to the left Penny looking to chase it down, not before Bloomfield clears. Needham Market looking for a goal pushing players on gaps at the back, Edwards finding Creaton dropping deep for the ball left, Henderson across to tackle for Needham Market, Etheridge then winning her side a free-kick wide on the right in the corner. Fisher over to take flashed into the six yard box headed outside falling to Rossiter hits the shot takes a deflection robbing it off it’s venom as Carter scoops it up into her gloves. 

   Sophie Jeffery on for Sudbury as the game moves into the final 10 minutes replacing Creaton. A double substitution for Needham Market, Catchpole and Balfour off replaced by Paige Wakefield and Eloise Ward. Sharp over on the left now bombing forwards looks to thread the ball in for Brawn, Carter racing out to the edge of her box getting to the ball first. Faith Candice comes on for Sudbury replacing Harrison at the back. Penny defending top of the D as Brawn looks to turn on the ball. Needham Market pressing on in search on a goal, Sudbury back soaking it up. Sharp getting on left side overruns the ball. 

  The clock ticking down alot of tired legs out there Needham Market leaving gaps as they risk pushing players on, Smith with fresh legs ready to run on with the ball turn the Needham Market defence. Playing in Jeffery to her right, Bloomfield defends for Needham Market. Guiver back on for Edwards late on with stoppage time about to be played. Guiver is fouled 20 yards out left of the Needham Market box trying to bring a ball down from a throw in. Penny on the ball goes for goal her effort landing on the roof of the net. 

  Needham Market come left Henderson with Sharp on for Brawn wide sees her cross charged down. Shepherd back on for McHale in the closing stages for Sudbury. One last attack for Needham Market, Hall laying the ball out to Sharp on the left wing makes a run into the box, Sharp down the line to cross in low Hall meeting it close in near post turns it goal wards, Carter dropping on it smartly, snatching it into her body as Hall follows up. That’s it the final action of the game as the final whistle blows players from the bench rush on to celebrate Sudbury’s victory.

AFC Sudbury Women celebrate at the final whistle

Full time AFC Sudbury Women 3-1 Needham Market Women

  An entertaining final between two strong sides. Sudbury the better on the night solid with plenty of energy taking the lead inside 10 minutes 2 up just 6 minutes later. Looked dangerous on the counter throughout. A goal back five minutes from the end of the first half giving Needham market encouragement going into the 2nd half, the worst possible start however as Sudbury raced into a 3-1 lead and from there looked to keep a good shape and limit opportunities for Needham Market who will feel they didn’t play their best this evening created some chances, Sudbury though had the quicker build up play and threat in attack.

 Women’s Football East – Player of the Match

 Onto this evenings Women’s Football East – Player of the Match and this is not an easy one at all several great performances out there. A few of note to mention, firstly Needham Market. Ele Catchpole making a number of vital tackles at the back getting the goal to narrow the gap at the break. Lina Nagib strong with the ball at her feet driving on, looking to set up chances. Ellie Rossiter carrying the biggest threat out on the right always available with some pacy running. For Sudbury the side was solid from back to front Millie Carter in goal, Teigan McHale and Ronni Harrison in defence with some great tackles and cover play. Kate Edwards winning the ball in the middle with the front three lively throughout, Jess Allen central with Alex Penny on the right both scoring. Pipping them all too it though the award goes to Evie Creaton. With some incredible runs took the game to Needham market right from the start and helped set the tone ran herself into the ground always ready to get on the attack.

Congratulations to AFC Sudbury Women on winning the 2021/22 Suffolk Women’s County Cup. Still plenty to play for yet this season.

 Both sides back in action again on Sunday with Sudbury in league action at home to Billericay Town Women Development and Needham Market at home to Barking FC Women in the ERWFL Challenge Cup.

 An enjoyable trip to Colchester (admittedly the journey home wasn’t so good with both the A12 and A14 shut but I got home in the finish). A fantastic attendance with 566 fans treated to a great event. Full credit to Colchester FC and Suffolk FA. Thanks for all you help this evening much appreciated. I suspect this is the beginning of a long rivalry between AFC Sudbury Women and Needham Market Women and there with be many more exciting games to come.

by Darren Gilham