Sunday 18th November
Norfolk Women’s County Cup
County Cup weekend across the country, Women’s Football East returning to The FDC Flegg to watch Acle United Women for the 2nd time in a fortnight as they take on higher league opponents Norwich City Ladies this afternoon.
A trophy both sides have held aloft the Norfolk Women’s County Cup enters the 2nd Round stage, with 2 of the favourites drawn together. Acle United Women winning the County Cup 4 seasons ago, were finalists last season losing to Wymondham Town Ladies. Competing amongst the title challengers in the ERWFL Premier Division will be confident going into today’s match against Norwich who play in the league above the FAWNL South East Division One.
The Norfolk Women’s County Cup becoming a stand alone competition having previous been in union with Suffolk in the 2011/12 season. Norwich City Ladies dominating those early years winning it on 3 successive occasions. A spell of non competition in the County Cup before making a return last season. That return short-lived as they were beaten away from home at The Walks by King’s Lynn Town Ladies. Norwich have grown since changes to the coaching set-up and structure, are in a stronger place this time around, will expect a challenging game at Acle’s home ground.
The FDC Flegg in Martham, an all weather surface, a small pitch supporters able to stand on one along one side. The dugouts moved to the opposite side of the pitch to allow for a better view. Hot drinks available, will be needed as winter draws ever closer. Both sides supporting Stonewall’s, Rainbow Laces campaign. Close to the coast a chilly breeze making it feel cold the sunny bright low in the sky.
Acle United Women starting XI – Amy Bell, Anna Larkins, Luka Goodfield, Kate Pasque, Chloe Shields, Broghan Scully, Amber Rowland, Lauren Bullard, Megan Todd (C), Grace Birchall & Rhianne Brister. Subs – Naomi Cooper, Ciera Flatt & Grace Parker.
Norwich City Ladies starting XI – Hope Armstrong, Tigi Robson, Alice Parker, Sasha Diston (C), Eliza McDonald, Millie Daviss, Ellie Smith, Aimee Durrant, Kathryn Stanley, Natasha Snelling & Rosie George. Subs – Summer Rogers, Victoria Pleavin & Abigail Tate.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
A few players missing for Norwich, Jodie Drake and Kate Parsons suspended, whilst striker Chelsea Garrett was out through injury, Olivia Mungham-Gray unavailable for Acle. Amy Bell keeping goal for Acle celebrating her birthday. It’s Norwich with the kick-off 1st half, wearing yellow shirts, green shorts and yellow and green socks, Acle lined up opposite wearing black and white vertical striped shirts black shorts and black and white hooped socks.
A probing start from both sides putting the ball up into the opponents half without much penetration. Ellie Smith with the ball at her feet driving on for Norwich moving right works her way into the box her near post ball cut out by Chloe Shields for the corner, defended Acle hit Norwich on the break captain, Megan Todd carrying the ball on through the middle into the Norwich half spots Lauren Bullard running clear on the right wing plays the pass over the top into her path as she continues to make her way forwards receiving the return ball as she arrives in the box, closing in or goalkeeper, Hope Armstrong, squeezes the shot past her as she slides in at her feet, the ball running narrowly wide of the post.
Smith busy early on getting forwards to press the Acle defend stealing possession 20 yards out shifts the ball to the right before having a strike at goal her effort wide. Tigi Robson winning the ball at the back for Norwich on the right plays the pass forwards for Natasha Snelling 25 yards out lays it out to Aimee Durrant hugging the right tough line bursting forwards she sends a cross in long across the six yard box, Kathryn Stanley up at the far post gets her head on the ball can only direct it back across the area, Shields getting it away for Acle.
Todd picks out Grace Birchall as she gets away in behind on the left wing sends the cross into the area, Norwich defending. A good tempo early on, Norwich pressing the ball, Durrant an outlet on the right keeping wide receiving the ball getting another cross into the area, Kate Pasque winning the header to clear for Acle this time. Broghan Scully coming on with the ball at her feet through the middle for Acle out to Birchall cutting inside from the left 20 yards out her shot low in towards the near post saved by Armstrong getting down to her right to push it behind for the corner. Armstrong claiming the ball for the set-piece.
Norwich with the ball on the left Stanley playing it back to full-back Alice Parker, she plays a long diagonal ball out to the right hoping the send Durrant clear in on goal, a little too much on the ball. Amber Rowland getting hold of the ball in the middle for Acle a driving run forwards, Norwich converge too many bodies to get through.
GOAL! Norwich take the lead have the ball out on the left moving into the Acle half a shot it lined up from distance a rasping effort driven in on target, Acle goalkeeper, Amy Bell doing well to glove the ball down, Snelling alert quickest to react on the follow-up getting onto the ball to send it into the back of the net 0-1.
Acle look for a quick response after falling behind push on into the Norwich half Birchall on the ball left side fires a fierce cross across the top of the area, Rowland making a good run just not quite able to take it in her stride, Norwich getting the ball safely back to Armstrong. The visitors hit Acle on the counter attack, Smith travelling at speed keeping the ball close to her feet as she drives on through the middle, slides a perfect ball in behind for Rosie George top of the area she opens up her body to send the ball past Bell as she comes sliding in, the ball running past her striking the post, the Acle defence scrambling it away.
Acle make a substitution, Rowland coming off on comes Ciera Flatt. A 2nd change soon follows, Rhianne Brister coming off for Naomi Cooper which sees Birchall move into a central attacking position. Norwich captain, Sasha Diston with a good ball forwards aiming to play Durrant in behind on the right, Pasque coming across tackling and winning the ball for Acle. Snelling is clipped, brought down as she pushes on towards the area a free-kick 20 yards out Snelling over it herself goes for goal a clipped effort that isn’t too far over the bar.
Todd sends a pass long for Bullard on the right, the cross dealt with by Norwich out to the left side, Cooper pressuring the ball regains possession carries it inside before sending a curling effort in towards the Norwich goal, does too much swerving in towards Armstrong who takes it in her midriff.
GOAL! Half an hour gone and the home side level the scores good build up play central the ball played out to Todd out on the right wing breaking forwards squares the cross back in to the top of the area Birchall with the run a great touch as she slides in to send the ball wide across the diving keeper and into the bottom corner of the net 1-1.
Norwich’s turn to put pressure on from the restart getting bodies forwards, Acle defence a little frantic as they manage to get the ball clear of the area. Abigail Tate has come on for Norwich replacing George in attack. Snelling right channel 20 yards out support from Daviss the two combining in front of the area, Daviss getting the ball past the challenge from Pasque her attempt at goal held by Bell at her near post.
Durrant with a strong run on the right wing lays a cross in with pace across the top of the Acle area, Tate bursting forwards can’t quite pick it up in her stride. Norwich with a 2nd change Summer Rogers coming on for Snelling. Scully with a piece of great defending for Acle getting across the the right to stop Durrant crossing in the corner wins her side a goal kick. Birchall with good work in the middle putting pressure on the Norwich back-line winning the ball, the shot taken early 30 yards out bounces harmlessly wide across the area.
Rogers getting the ball played into her feet from a throw-in on the left tries her luck from distance her strike wide of the far post. Stanley and Durrant swapping wings late in the 1st half the former now on the right has support from Daviss, one cross blocked by Goodfield, Stanley gets another go from the by-line the ball held by Bell at her near post.
Half-time Acle United Women 1-1 Norwich City Ladies
An entertaining 1st 45 minutes of football, passing quickly a good start from Norwich albeit Acle with the early chance to take the lead, both have enjoyed spells of pressure without dominating, the game flowing well, competitive but I expected nothing less, Norwich taking the lead, Acle coming back to level, the tie remained beautifully poised and not clues yet as to which way it might go.
Acle to get the 2nd half underway the low sun in their faces, Norwich with a change Snelling back on the field in place of Durrant. Diston with a great tackle early in to stop Birchall getting away as she is played on by Cooper. Smith making some great runs forwards carrying the ball on moves to the right this time before sending it on into the area, Pasque with Tate looking to pull off her shoulder intercepting the ball for Acle.
Norwich starting the 2nd half well, Rogers playing a ball up into the area, caught by Bell. Acle break Birchall left side her cross wild over the goal. Birchall keeps on going pushing on towards the area right of the D is brought to the floor, a free-kick awarded. A foot outside the area Birchall on the set-piece goes for power he shot put in over the goal.
Now a first for Women’s Football East and I was beginning to wonder if I would actually see this as we are now well into the season, a sin bin offence. The sin-bin to be used for acts of descent. Smith with another surging run on the ball is brought down by Scully just over halfway, a sliding challenge but the ball taken clean both players down Smith with a reactive lash out, spotted by referee Ashley Tyne, Smith receives a yellow card. Foolishly Smith then gives the referee a clap the result 10 minutes in the sin-bin (the bench in this case) Norwich down to 10 temporally.
That of course gives Acle a boost knowing they have a player advantage push forwards Birchall on the left wing inside for Todd top of the area meeting it sends the effort over. Norwich regroup Daviss running on through the middle as they work the ball forwards well central threatens to run clear into the area, Anna Larkins doing fantastically to get across in front of her and play the ball at close range into Bell to kick clear.
Acle’s Pasque wins the ball high up the pitch on halfway a great clearance finding Bullard wide right running on behind sends a squared cross right along the top of the box 20 yards out Flatt making a run from midfield meeting it looking to beat the keeper sends the low driven shot under her dive past her but wide of the post. Birchall gets brought down in the middle again, Scully over the ball played high into the area, Armstrong calling for it catching unchallenged.
GOAL! Despite being down to 10 Norwich retake the lead getting forwards on the left side have a throw-in the ball dropped into Stanley she does well turning inside and closing in on the area lets fly with a shot looping up into the air, no doubt it’s lost in the low sun by Bell as it drops over her under the bar into the goal beyond, Stanley putting Norwich back into the lead 1-2.
Acle make a change with Scully coming off, ex-Norwich centre back Grace Parker coming on. Sin-bin time over it’s Durrant who returns to the field on place of Smith. Norwich press the advantage a ball in from the right into the box no-one dealing with it for Acle, Stanley putting it back in towards the near post a combination of goalkeeper and defender blocking the ball as it runs away for a corner. A high ball on long past the far post Snelling with a glancing header can only place it wide.
Parker gets the ball cleared at the back for Acle, turns into a great ball forwards for Birchall she turns finding Bullard breaking in behind on the right down the line her cross in across the six yard box dealt with by Robson at the far post for Norwich. Smith is back on now in place of Tate. Immediately involved Daviss playing her forwards drives on with the ball top of the box has Snelling running to her right slips the ball into her path Snelling blasting the shot wide. Smith coming forwards again riding a tackle, keeps her balance sending the ball wide right to Durrant she shoots from the angle Bell down low holding onto the ball a her near post.
GOAL! From the counter attack Acle come back to level the scores for the 2nd time in the match, Bell launching the ball forwards helped on to Birchall left of the area a mix-up between defence and keeper allowing the attacker in to round the keeper and send the ball into the back of the net. 2-2.
Bullard getting away on the right lifting a cross into the Norwich area headed away by McDonald at the near post. Acle quick to close in on the Norwich defence on the ball. End to end now Durrant on the right for Norwich to the by-line cuts the cross back in towards the area clearing everyone at the near post, Snelling in running in unmarked behind central her first time shot takes the ball over the bar.
Breaking through the middle Acle go direct Todd with the break in behind into the area, Armstrong sliding in to make the blocking save as she goes to shoot, Todd alert for the rebound the ball popping up and in behind the angle closing as she moves to the left almost gone as she shoot the ball hitting the post and spinning behind for the goalkick. A double change for Norwich late on, Robson and Rogers off, George back on along with Victoria Pleavin. Brister back on for Acle replacing Goodfield.
Time running out both sides sensing they can win this no signs anyone is preparing for extra-time, George winning Norwich a corner on the right, Acle defending try to counter, Diston breaking the attack up. Smith with a surging run forwards for Norwich, running into traffic Acle counter…
GOAL! the ball fired up field, helped on Birchall sensing a gap peeling away to the right now no one there coming back 25 yards out central has the Norwich defence beaten as she sets her sides on goal 20 yards out, Armstrong to beat, the keeper coming to close her down tries to narrow the angle, Birchall reading what she is going to do cutting the ball back across her dive and sending the ball racing low into the back of the net to fire Acle into the lead and with in complete a hat-trick 3-2.
Little time left in the match Norwich with a free-kick inside the Acle half the ball has to be played up into the area, Durrant does get a free header but her attempt is over, the final whistle blows and Acle win at the death!
Full time Acle United Women 3-2 Norwich City Ladies
A dramatic end to a thrilling encounter, truth be told I could just have easily been talking about a Norwich win at the death such was the nature of the game, but I’m not Acle emerge triumphant. A deserved win in the context of the tie both sides giving it their all not much between them. Both with spells of pressure the goals as much as not coming against the run of play, both attacking at times Acle were better suited to hit on the counter attack, Norwich neutralising their width 2nd half especially. Good chances created at the end of the day this result could have gone either way and as disappointed as the losing side will this was a great cup tie to watch. A credit to both sides
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto the the Women’s Football East – Player of the Match for this Sunday afternoon’s match, was an entertaining game, good performances all over the pitch. For Norwich, I thought Millie Daviss had an excellent game in the middle of the park as did Ellie Smith with some powerful runs with the ball Aimee Durrant and Kathryn Stanley out on the flanks too. For Acle, Broghan Scully put herself about in midfield well, Megan Todd looked to create without getting much reward. Standing out though is Grace Birchall some impressive runs whilst operating wide, then moving into the middle creating chances and scoring what was a fantastic and important hat-trick she is today’s Player of the Match.
An entertaining County Cup tie this afternoon between two of the leading sides in Norfolk almost a pity it wasn’t the final itself a great advert for women’s football in the county. Hung around for a bit after the game just to check if anyone was measuring the pitch but I’m sure they weren’t :-). My thanks to both sides for their help with the team line-ups. I look forwards to the quarter final draw.