Tuesday 7th May
Suffolk Women’s County Cup Final
Ipswich Town Women v Needham Market Women
A Tuesday night trip to Portman Road home of Ipswich Town FC for the final of this season’s HomeStore Suffolk Women’s County Cup, Ipswich Town Women looking to retain the trophy for the 5th successive season, Needham Market Women their opponents reaching the final of the County Cup in their debut season.
Ipswich Town Women have dominated in the Suffolk Women’s County Cup for over a decade now appearing in 10 of the last finals winning the competition winning the trophy on 8 occasions, whilst it was a shared competition with Norfolk that as a stand alone competition in Suffolk. 4 successive wins coming into tonight’s final looking strong to make it five in a row as they come up against an emerging side playing 3 leagues below. Ipswich the leading woman’s club in Suffolk playing in the FAWNL South East Division One where they secured a 7th placed finish with a last gasp winner on Sunday. A change of management after an indifferent start to the season Jo Sheehan looking after their U21s side stepping up to the role, has brought some of Ipswich’s talented youngsters through to play for the senior team to bolster an established and experienced squad.
A fantastic first season for Needham Market Women coming together in the summer, the squad building, several names familiar having been part of Bacton United Ladies and Coplestonians Ladies. Hit the ground running winning their opening 5 league games matching East Bergholt’s 100% winning start, their 1st league defeat of the season at home to East Bergholt losing narrowly 3-2 Needham Market nevertheless bounced back well returning the compliment with a 3-0 win against East Bergholt at the start of March that though East Bergholt’s only defeat, Needham Market losing 3 in total clinching runner-ups spot, more success too in the cup competitions reaching both the finals of the League and County Cup.
Missing out on collecting silverware in the League Cup played last week losing 2-1 to East Bergholt who won a 2nd successive double. Plenty of goals within the squad over 120 scored a wonderful occasion to mark the end of their first season together getting the opportunity to play at under the lights at Portman Road. Know it will be a tough test playing against a side playing their football 3 leagues higher in the FAWNL. Suffolk itself ready for new sides to establish themselves up the women’s football pyramid and Needham Market as in a good position to build.
Road to the Final
Ipswich Town Women away to ERWFL Division One side Ipswich Wanderers Ladies in the 1st round of the Suffolk County Cup a close result Town going through with a 2-1 win. Needham Market receiving a bye.
Both sides with a walk over in the 2nd Round with their opponents pulling out. A home draw for both in the quarter finals with Ipswich at home to Suffolk Women’s Division One side, Brantham Athletic Ladies a big score ranked up with Ipswich finding form in front of goal winning the game 14-0. Needham Market at home playing title rivals and Suffolk Women’s Division Champions, East Bergholt United Ladies. A fantastic result seeing Needham Market edge East Bergholt out winning the game 2-1.
The semi-finals to be held at neutral venues, Ipswich were meant to be taking on last season’s finalists AFC Sudbury Ladies, however the ERWFL Premier Division side struggling for numbers throughout the campaign made the decision to pull out sending Ipswich unopposed through to another final. Needham Market taking on Haverhill Rovers Ladies at Long Melford FC, a 4-1 victory sending them through to their 2nd final of the season.
The final returning to Portman Road the home of Ipswich Town FC having hosted the final back in the 2015/16 Ipswich winning 8-0 against Norfolk Division Two side Kirkley & Pakefield Ladies. Another leading stadium within a county in the East and beyond hosting their Women’s County Cup Final, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire too showcasing the women’s game a tell to how much the game is growing. A fantastic opportunity for both sets of players the pitch immaculate. The lights on the upper tier filling with supporters. Overcast the threat of rain in the air.
Needham Market Women starting XI – Amber Leeks, Niamh Thomas, Megan Stock (C), Maria Smith, Nicola Henderson, Elysia Young, Emily Steward, Amber Sparkes, Laura Tuley, Francesca Rainbird & Lois Balfour. Subs – Amy Dunn, Milly Carter, Isobel Chaplin, Ashleigh Goddard & Abbie Wilkinson.
Ipswich Town Women starting XI – Sian Fagg, Nicole Pannifer, Eva Hubbard, Aimee Stretch, Lindsey Cooper, Paige Wakefield, Amanda Crump (C), Amy Nash, Zoe Cossey, Natasha Thomas & Charlotte Kellett. Subs – Danni Clarke, Jac Ball, Flo Cage, Sophie Welton & Toni-Anne Wayne.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Ipswich to get this season’s Suffolk Women’s County Cup Final underway kicking-off the 1st half wearing blue shirts and socks with white shorts, Needham Market kitted out all in red, captain Megan Stock taking her place in the back-line having recovered form what looked like a nasty knee injury in the League Cup Final a week ago. Needham Market pressing the ball from the start keep Ipswich inside their own half. A free-kick awarded top of the centre circle as Laura Tuley getting hold of the ball for Needham Market in attack is upended, the ball played high into the box defended by Amy Nash the clearance sent back into the area claimed by goalkeeper Sian Fagg.
Ipswich attack Zoe Cossey left sending Eva Hubbard on from left back bombing forwards her diagonal ball into the box met by Natasha Thomas her touch deflecting the ball goalwards, safely held by Needham Market goalkeeper Amber Leeks back on her line. Charlotte Kellett one of those impressing for the U21s side for Ipswich moves out to the right with the ball cutting it back into the area for Thomas near side on her quickly can’t adjust to get a shot away before the Needham Market defence close and clear.
The flag up against both sides in quick succession Cossey going too early in the left for Ipswich, Lois Balfour through the middle for Needham Market following a great ball forwards from Elysia Young. Niamh Thomas does well at right back to tackle Natasha Thomas inside the box as the Ipswich attacker bombs forwards with the ball left, Maria Smith clearing the ball. Kellett latching on to the ball from a Needham market goalkick moves left to get into a crossing position flights a great ball into the box Thomas rising to head the ball knocking it down towards goal grabbed by Leeks.
Having had vocal support at the League Cup Final the Needham Market fans within the crowd were in good voice, that stirring the Ipswich supporters into action a good atmosphere in the stands adding to the occasion. Thomas playing the ball forwards for Ipswich into the left channel, Kellett their supporting Cossey getting the ball in the box tackled the ball behind for the corner. An inswinging ball by Nash claimed high on her line by Leeks. Thomas busy in defence at right back for Needham market as Cossey looks to attack Kellett sending the pass into her run the defender doing well to stick her foot in take the ball.
Needham Market trying to get there strikers into the game whenever they can a ball long into the right chased down by Balfour her cross into the box cleared by Lindsey Cooper. The ball out from the back has Cossey attacking left checking back top of the area curls a cross in towards the six yard box, Ipswich captain, Amanda Crump meeting it n the volley the ball straight at and held by Leeks. Needham Market doing okay in the early stages mostly defensive Stock vocal leading well, Young in midfield looking to find a forwards ball. Hubbard latching onto a loose ball in the middle bursting on into the area stopped by Thomas, Nicola Henderson clearing.
Amber Sparkes playing the ball through for Balfour in attack, Aimee Stretch getting in front of her in defence for Ipswich to guide the ball back to her keeper. First Thomas, then Kellett fouled to the right attacking for Ipswich 30 yards out Paige Wakefield sending both free-kicks high. Ipswich press forwards numbers in attack looking for the opening goal Cossey left he cross long Nash jumping far post can’t reach it. Emily Steward with a rare opportunity to attack for Needham Market looking to combine with Tuley in attack the return pass cut out at the back.
Kellett in behind off a Needham Market throw misjudged on the left to the byline cuts her cross back central the ball met by Crump driven goalwards Leeks diving to her right making a fantastic save pushing the ball behind for a corner. Put in from the left Cooper up from the back heading the back wide of the near post.
GOAL! 27 minutes played and Ipswich’s pressure brings the opening goal attacking down the right the ball crossed in to the near side top of the six yard box Leeks coming to claim doesn’t get it fall straight into the path of Kellett beyond and she sends it into the back of the net. 1-0.
Young back to help in defence for Needham Market top of the area tackling Crump as she looks for a one two with Kellett. Thomas looking lively for Ipswich and hungry to score coming on right side holding the ball up finds room to get a shot away the effort over the bar. Cossey lets out a roar of frustration as she sees her 25 yard strike held by Leeks as she is given the ball by Crump. Henderson putting in the tackle to deny Thomas as she threatens to run in behind. Pace in the Needham Market side penned back they can’t exploit it their attacking players seeing little of the ball.
Henderson carrying the ball out from the back for Needham Market forwards to Balfour looks to send the ball on for Tuley who is upended. The free-kick played up towards the top of the area Ipswich heading it away. Ipswich creating and getting numbers on haven’t found the clinical edge yet. Needham Market battling, Francesca Rainbird wanting to get forwards more often than not supporting Stock in defence on the left. The game entering the final 5 minutes of the 1st half.
Post! Cossey getting hold of the ball on the left dribbling inside 25 yards out drawing the attention of the Needham Market defence, Thomas slipping into a gap near post as Cossey sends her the pass she sends the ball on towards goal cannons off the base of the upright. Wakefield with the ball on for Cossey left cuts back and sends a shot long past the far post. Cossey continues to be a menace on the left getting away to cross the ball falls to Crump at the back stick strikes a shot in towards goal, Leeks with another fine stop diving to push the ball wide.
Into injury time Ipswich push forwards looking for another goal. Needham Market although on the back foot for long spells haven’t been overwhelmed and to keep it at 1-0 going into the changing rooms a great achievement. Cossey getting down to the byline sending the ball back towards the near post Thomas with the well timed run meeting her puts the ball straight into Leeks.
GOAL! Right on the stroke of half-time Ipswich get the 2nd goal they wanted, Crump bringing the ball on lays it on for Thomas breaking away into the area right of goal, hits it well putting the ball across the goalkeeper into the bottom corner. 2-0.
Half-time Ipswich Town Women 2-0 Needham Market Women
A crucial goal right on the stroke of half-time for Ipswich Town Women to see them finish a strong 1st half leading the Suffolk Women’s County Cup final 2-0. Have been the dominant side by far and created plenty of chances not as clinical as they would like so far but you can only soak up so much pressure. Needham Market doing okay creating nothing in attack as of yet Ipswich getting the ball forwards with intent regularly Young doing well in the middle trying to break up attacks Ipswich though with options all over the pitch. The 2nd goal so late a blow a 1-0 deficit going along way to encourage Needham Market heading into the 2nd half.
Needham Market to get the 2nd half underway their supporters shouting encouragement. Ipswich get hold of the ball straight away however Thomas getting on through the middle her run stopped by Smith.
GOAL! The worst possible start to the 2nd half for Needham Market as their opponents go further in front the ball played into Thomas left of goal as she enters the box catching it with the outside of her boot lifts the ball on past the keeper into the top corner to score her 2nd of the game and see Ipswich lead 3-0.
Needham Market look to be positive the ball played long for Rainbird looking to get away down the left wing the flag halting her progress.
GOAL! 3 minutes gone in the 2nd half and Ipswich take full control of the final getting a 4th goal. Cossey with the ball left on for Crump bursting forwards the Ipswich captain moving left down the line with the ball at her feet getting into the box close to the byline the angle against her nevertheless strikes it goalwards the ball squeezing under Leeks and inside the post as she goes down for it 4-0.
Thomas moving left has support from Hubbard getting on the ball played inside to Cossey she takes it on shooting from 25 yards out Leeks claiming it. Niamh Thomas out to charge down the ball as Hubbard gets on down the left attacking for Ipswich. Stock in to clear for Needham Market her side a little shell shocked at the start to the 2nd half. Young with a fantastic ball long to the left Rainbird and Tuley after it, Cooper in between intercepting taking the ball to the left Tuley in to nick it turns back into the area, getting a shot away as Cooper slides in the ball blocked by the defender and Fagg in goal.
Cossey up the other end getting a shot away from distance, forcing Leeks to tip the ball over. Thomas surging into the box getting in behind shooting from the angle the goalkeeper parrying it behind for a corner right side put in central headed down, Rainbird on the post blocking for Needham Market. Ipswich strong in attack coming forwards with more intent Thomas moving across the back line to make herself available, Crump with several good runs from the middle to support.
Changes for both sides, with Milly Carter on for Steward, a double switch for Ipswich Stretch and Pannifer off at the back, Flo Cage and Jac Ball on. The support hasn’t been dampened in good voice another well supported final with 769 in attendance.
GOAL! close to an hour on the clock and Ipswich extend their lead further a fine individual goal for Nash as she attacks right, breaking on into the area stays on her feet as Henderson tackles, the evading Stock sliding in the ball sent across the keeper and inside the side netting to see Ipswich go 5-0 up.
Nash coming off then replaced by Sophie Welton, Natasha Thomas off too with Toni-Anne Wayne. The substitutes looking to link on the right in attack straight away Smith doing the defending for Needham Market. A double switch for Needham Market then with Smith and Balfour coming off for Amy Dunn and Ashleigh Goddard. Cossey keeps trying her luck from distance another shot sailing over the bar. Needham Market aren’t deterred prepared to attack and try and get forwards whenever they can, Ipswich’s movement and counter attacking dangerous.
GOAL! 67 minutes on the clock and Ipswich score another with Wayne running in behind onto a long ball taking it into the box staying composed as she is closed down clever with her movement away left any tackle likely to result in a penalty she closes in on the keeper and slots it past Leeks to score. 6-0.
Dunn does well making a recovering tackle to concede the corner as Kellett gets forwards into the box.
GOAL! 3 minutes after taking a 6 goal lead Ipswich moving the ball well in attack score a well worked 7th, Crump with it at her feet on the left level with the top of the area passing it inside to Kellett central she sends it on to Welton ahead of her right of goal six yards out she shoots across the keeper to find the bottom corner 7-0.
GOAL! A purple patch from Ipswich as they add an 8th in quick succession Kellett bringing the ball on through the middle on for Wayne in behind inside the box sets up Crump forwards with her on the her left for a simple tap in to make it 8-0.
Ipswich running away with it now Needham Market making a change with Abbie Wilkinson on for Tuley. Ipswich substitute their goalkeeper Fagg off, Danni Clarke going on between the sticks. Ipswich who are restricted to three substitutes in the FAWNL rolling the changes at Portman Road in the County Cup make multiple changes towards the end of the game. Stock having battled for Needham Market coming off Smith returning to the action.
Needham Market despite the heavy scoreline continue with their positive intent getting forwards cheered on whenever they get the ball Sparkes through the middle stopped by Cage. Rainbird bursting forwards showing what she can do in attack getting in behind into the box one on one with the keeper, Clarke does well saving at her feet. Henderson prepared to bring the ball out of defence onto Young her pass for Wilkinson intercepted. Rainbird with Sparkes left Jac Ball cutting out finding Cossey central she puts it on for Crump top of the area she shoots over.
Thomas passing to Wakefield running on into the area left side her strike goalwards saved by Leeks the loose ball gathered by Welton 20 yards out her shot put over. Henderson defending as Wayne attacks conceding a corner on the right the ball met by Wayne near post her header dropping over. Thomas getting in behind 25 yards out tees up Wayne to send a shot in goalwards the ball smashing down off the crossbar. Wakefield taking the ball on plays a one two with Crump central before seeing her shot drop wide of goal.
Into added time Rainbird bursting clear right into the box taking the ball in close the the keeper placing it wide of her inside the near post, the crowd cheer seeing a Needham Market goal scored at Portman Road or so they thought Rainbird’s joy short-lived a chorus of boo’s ringing out at the sight of the flag raised for offside. Young winning the ball back high up the pitch on for Sparkes 25 yards out her low shot gathered by Clarke late on.
Full time Ipswich Town Women 8-0 Needham Market Women
Full time and Ipswich Town Women celebrate winning the County Cup once again matching the scoreline the last time they graced Portman Road winning 8-0. Found the clinical edge not with them 2nd half taking full advantage o Needham Market’s inexperience and as they tired create goal scoring opportunities taking their chances well. Showing good movement going forwards and using the space to full advantage, an early 3rd goal 2nd half putting them in full control after scoring at the death in the first half.
These defeats hurt, will take the gloss of what Needham Market Women have acheived the score raw in the memory, but over time those achievements will return, a goal would have been nice at Portman Road but it wasn’t to be. A great occasion nonetheless. In the end runners-up in all three competitions but to be in contention for a possible treble just months after forming is amazing and for Needham Market Women this is just the beginning.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Time for tonight’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match a few players to mention, for Needham Market, Elysia Young in midfield and Nicola Henderson at the back standing out. For Ipswich, Zoe Cossey was a threat all game running with the ball an unlucky not to be on the scoresheet. Natasha Thomas did score two goals crucial to either side of half-time great movement and desire shown in attack runs tonight’s winner close with Ipswich captain Amanda Crump getting the award make some fantastic runs forwards and scoring two herself whilst setting up chances for others.
Congratulations to Ipswich Town Women on winning a 5th successive Suffolk Women’s County Cup.
Not the pre-match to a game I wanted but got there in the end and enjoyed the game Portman Road a great venue, a fantastic crowd in support. My thanks to those that helped me out and thanks to Gary Reed for the additional pictures used.