Thursday 18th May
Norfolk Women’s Division Two
Staying in Norfolk for some more midweek league action this Thursday evening with a trip along the A47 to watch a game from Norfolk Women’s Division Two with Thorpe St Andrew Women hosting leader leaders Aylsham FC Women, a win for the visitors will see them crowned Champion in their debut season.
Aylsham FC Women emerging out on top of what has been a competitive tussle at the top end of a 12 strong league. With it looking an open fight between 6 sides entering the new year, one side lost as Gorleston FC Ladies were to fold, North Walsham Angels Ladies mounting a late charge to get amongst the mix, along side KLSC FC Women, Mulbarton Belles Ladies new Development side and Thorpe St Andrew Women.
Haven’t seen Thorpe St Andrew Women for a good while, in fact back then they were still Thorpe United Ladies, one of the leading sides in the Norfolk Women’s Football league for many years. Playing at the Thorpe Recreation Ground on Laundry Lane. A falling out with the previous management regime saw the entire first team go with manager Martin Frances to form Mulbarton Belles Ladies. That left the Development team to become the senior team. A tough campaign last time out with Tony Allen taking on the coaching of the team placed in strong Division One, would have preferred to have been in Division Two.
An inexperienced squad were to struggle with some big losses along side North Walsham Angels Ladies who were in a similar position the latter losing several experienced players as a result, Thorpe St Andrew dug deep however and sticking together worked hard week in week out to improve the signs there as the season drew to a close for a brighter future. Now back in Division Two despite losing their opening two fixtures were to go on a run of 8 matches unbeaten winning 6 to put themselves in amongst the mix at the top end of the table, becoming a side used to winning games instead of one accustomed to defeat, have dropped away at the end but will almost certain cement a top 5 finish. Abi Simmons top scorer netting 28 goals so far this season with both Bex Sutton and Poppy Le Beau reaching double figures. Thorpe a club that has always had a strong youth set-up with teams from U10s up adult.
A phenomenal debut season for Aylsham FC Women, ex-Norwich City Women coach Steve Kenny bringing women’s football back to Aylsham, building a strong squad with some ex-Norwich City Reserves players including Jordan Arnoup, along with some ex-Stalham players, Charlotte Crane and Sophie-Jayne O’Connor. Looked a strong squad on paper and has proved to be the case starting with a romping 17-0 home win have continued to pile on the goals scoring a staggering 113 in the 19 games played to date averaging 5.6 goals a game while conceding just 8 at the other end.
Behind in there fixtures laid in wait for the sides battling above winning 7 in a row while conceding just the 1 goal were to have a mini wobble towards the end of February beginning of March with 1-0 defeat to Mulbarton and an in form North Walsham Angels Ladies side before returning to winning ways and banging in the goal once more. Captain, Jordan Arnoup playing most of the time at centre back the league’s top scorer finding the back of the net with 38 goals from 21 appearances. Hannah Claughton too amongst the goals scoring 21 from her 21 games with Sophie Lubbock dual signed with Fakenham Town Ladies weighing in with 16 goals from just 5 appearances. 10 wins in a row propelling Aylsham to the top of the table promotion to Division one already secured a win in their final game of the season with see them become Champions although a draw would undoubtedly do it with their superior goal difference over KLSC FC Women who still have two to play.
The Thorpe Recreation Ground the home of all the Thorpe St Andrew sides. Boasting a number of full sized grass pitches sloping up from the clubhouse, with the bar and kitchen hatch open serving hot and cold drinks. Thorpe using one of the upper pitches this evening a start contrast to last evenings game in Suffolk this pitch huge in comparison one extreme to the other long and wide, sloping from one side to the other. A full 90 minute game planned a brighter day with little cloud starting to cool down noticeably as the sun drops.
Thorpe St Andrew Women starting XI – Natalie Cloney, Libby Eglington, Sienna Moore, Emma Clarke, Sarah Rooke, Chloe Musson (C), Jen Brown, Bex Sutton, Natasha Frankland, Tabbi Mileham & Poppy Le Beau. Subs – Hannah Artis, Georgie Rumney, Abi Simmons, Olivia Pollard & Emily Warnes.
Aylsham FC Women starting XI – Yaz Wolford, Ellie Cleaver, Abbie Butcher, Jordan Arnoup (C), Charlotte Crane, Georgie Bobbin, Flo Simpkin, Sophie-Jane O’Connor, Hannah Claughton, Rhiannon Dack & Carly Allum. Subs – Hannah Lock, Cayla Brown, Sophie Lubbock & Vicki Lubbock.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
A midweek fixture Aylsham having a few of their dual signed players available, with Yaz Wolford in goal also with King’s Lynn Town Ladies in the ERWFL Premier Division. Along with the Lubbock twins, Sophie and Vicki available with Fakenham Town Ladies excellent debut season in ERWFL Division One North now finished on the bench. It’s the visitors to get the game underway wearing orange coloured shirts and socks with blue shorts. Thorpe lined up opposite wearing blue and white vertical striped shirts with black shorts and socks. Played back into Charlotte Crane at the back lifted out to the right Ellie Cleaver on for Rhiannon Dack, closed down by Thorpe’s Tabbi Mileham, Dack snapping back at Mileham as she looks to travel on the flank.
Georgie Bobbin in with a strong challenge to win the ball in the middle for Aylsham lifted up to Carly Allum in attack central, hooks the ball out to Dack racing on right side pulling wider as she moves into the area gets a shot away Thorpe goalkeeper, Hannah Cloney claiming it at her near post. Plenty of space on the pitch to exploit, Bex Sutton turning on the ball central for Thorpe lifting it forwards for Poppy Le Beau in attack making a run towards the box, Aylsham captain, Jordan Arnoup chasing lunging in to tackle taking the ball away from Le Beau out of play for a corner on the left.
An inswinging back curled in central dropping amongst a cluster of players, knocked out towards the penalty spot straight to Le Beau, fires a shot back in low, blocked on the line by Walford deflected out to the left cleared for a Thorpe throw. Thorpe looking to press at the start Mileham sending a cross from the throw into the area, Walford getting hold of it with Natasha Frankland closing in.
Bobbin robust in the middle for Aylsham, fouling Sarah Rooke in the middle, a free kick to Thorpe top of the circle players forwards the ball dropped over Le Beau going out attack it, Aylsham scrambling it clear to the left for the throw. Is a tendency for players to cluster at this level get drawn to the ball, however not this evening players a spread, Thorpe’s home afterall and Hannah Claughton and Dack are staying out on flanks left and right for Aylsham offering good passing options, Flo Simpkin picking out Claughton on the left as Bobbin closes the ball down in the middle, racing on to the by-line Sienna Moore holding her up well getting in the challenge to prevent the cross.
Sutton knocking Bobbin off the ball conceding a free-kick outside the box to the left 25 yards out. Arnoup, coming forwards to take the set-piece, smashes her shot into the wall, rebounding inside central Arnoup moving to strike it 1st time gets too much on it sending the ball high over the bar. Aylsham getting oy on the wings the ball forwards form Abbie Butcher for Claughton on the left pace to take the ball on turning inside the shoot on the angle her driven effort striking the base of the near post.
Thorpe get the ball into Jen Brown on the right playing it inside for Sutton, lifted up to Le beau in attack, Crane in to close her down for Aylsham at the back. Sophie-Jayne O’Connor coming on with the ball central for Aylsham looks to send Carly Allum away as she moves into the left channel, the offside flag halting her attack. Thorpe too using the flanks well Sutton out to Mileham left shifts the ball between her feet looking to kick on, Cleaver getting her foot in to regain possession for Aylsham. Thorpe making a change, Brown coming off on comes Georgie Rumney goes into the back line.
Simpkin with O’Connor in the middle for Aylsham the diagonal ball putting Dack away on the right reaching to top of the area pulls the trigger her shot pulled wide of the near post. 15 minutes played Mileham attacking on Thorpe’s left stabbed forwards into Le Beau outside the area left closely marked by Crane can’t turn inside lays it back to Mileham to strike from distance the shot wide of the near post. Olivia Pollard also on for Thorpe.
Pressure on the ball high on the left from Thorpe, Frankland with Mileham the latter stealing onto the ball to take it on into the area across the top of the six yard box Arnoup rushing in to close the ball down sending it clear with a blocking tackle. Certainly competitive both sides closing the ball down Thorpe encouraged getting some joy in the final third, Aylsham turning play around Arnoup forwards to O’Connor picking out Allum in the left channel, Thorpe captain Chloe Musson into close her down win the ball.
Aylsham winning a corner on the right an inswinging delivery high across goal, Allum rising can’t quite get her head on the ball. Dack finding space out on the right for Aylsham put on by Cleaver taking the ball on down the line fizzes a cross in close to the near post snatched up by Cloney in the Thorpe goal. Emma Clarke advancing through the middle for Thorpe sending the pass on for Le Beau in attack, Arnoup getting hold of the ball hooking it clear.
Libby Eglington defending for Thorpe on Dack as she takes the ball on right the fullback forcing her wide before challenging. Thorpe winning a free-kick central out to Mileham left chests the ball into the path of Rooke running on into the left channel the ball crossed into the box Le Beau laying it back for Clarke who shoots wide.
GOAL! Aylsham break down the left wing Claughton taking the ball on bursting inside smashing the ball in towards the near post, deflected through bodies across goal runs out to Dack racing in far post to smash the ball high into the back of the net 0-1.
The break through for Aylsham coming in the 20th minute. A blow for Thorpe, Sutton trying her luck from range her effort not trouble Walford. Musson on for Le Beau in the middle lift the ball out to Mileham up on the left taking the ball inside, Cleaver charging her shot down outside the area. The Thorpe bench unhappy with some of the decisions being given some robust challenges out there. Make a change bringing on Emily Warnes. Rumney doing well at the back defending on Allum as she tries to get into the box from the left the ball put out for a corner
GOAL! Simpkins corner in low to the near post covered by a defender the ball out to the left Claughton looking to get hold of the ball a push on her spotted by the referee points to the spot Penalty! Arnoup, Aylsham’s penalty taker runs up strikes the ball low and fast into the bottom right corner to score her 39th goal of the season 0-2. Wheels away in celebration doing a Chloe Kelly whipping her shirt off and sports bra beneath running across to celebrate with manager Steve Kenny.
Rules are rules receives a yellow card as she retrieves her shirt. Aylsham 2 goals to the good look to press the advantage Simpkin stealing through into the right channel laying the ball on for Dack out wide driving to the by-line the cross/shot racing across the face of the goal. Thorpe making a change in attack bringing off Le Beau sending on top scorer, Abi Simmons. Thorpe disappointed having made a good start to the game now 2 goals behind. Musson intercepting as Allum looks to put Claughton away on the left.
Aylsham making a double switch sending on Sophie and Vicki Lubbock replacing Bobbin and Simpkin. Aylsham getting on top pressing the ball high on the right before Sophie Lubbock sends a shot wide. O’Connor feeding the ball on for Sophie Lubbock driving into the right channel, Moore on her shoulder pushing her wide getting a foot on the ball to send it out for a corner. Taken short gives Sutton time to race out of the area and charge the ball down deflected out for a 2nd corner. The delivery flashed in across goal gathered by O’Connor far side her low ball back in grabbed by the keeper.
Simmons played in through the middle as Thorpe catch Aylsham with a high line the ball running on Walford already at the top of the area stays big patient waiting to claim it even as Simmons charges on the ball skipping up off the keeper, Walford keeping her eye on the ball to take it down into her gloves. Sutton lifting the ball out to the left possession regained for Aylsham by Abbie Butcher on the left inside for Arnoup to play into the middle.
GOAL! Aylsham moving the ball around played left into Allum she lays it on for Sophie Lubbock to attack the box left of the area on the run sees the keeper off her line and lobs her from 30 yards out to send the ball over her to run on into the back of the net 0-3.
The visitors with a comfortable lead now, Thorpe needing to settle down, Mileham back helping in defence battling with Vicki Lubbock for possession of the ball. Thorpe winning a free-kick inside the Aylsham half Sutton playing it into Mileham taking the ball on into the left corner before lifting a cross into the area, Sutton central heading the ball up towards goal Walford back on her line under it to claim safely.
Another change for Aylsham with O’Connor coming off replaced by Cayla Brown as the first half moves into stoppage time. Rooke defending in the box as Vicki Lubbock looks to turn to attack the ball cleared for a throw.
Half-time Thorpe St Andrew Women 0-3 Aylsham FC Women
After a fairly even opening 20 minutes Aylsham broke to open the scoring and added a 2nd and 3rd goal at regular intervals to secure a strong lead going into the 2nd half. Using the width well, Claughton and Dack staying out wide driving forwards. Thorpe frustrated making a positive start creating a few opportunities pressing Aylsham’s defence frustrated with a few decisions the 2nd goal unsettling them Aylsham taking advantage finishing the half strong. Almost there defending a 3 goal lead, manager Steve Kenny not wanting an complacency to set in as the sides return to the pitch after a quick turn around.
No changes for Aylsham as the sun begins to set the air getting decidedly chilly the big coat still needed. Thorpe bringing on Hannah Artis to get the 2nd half underway the ball back to Musson out to Eglington on the left, Claughton getting in to close the ball down rolled inside for Vicki Lubbock, Rumney in to tackle for Thorpe the ball cleared to the right.
Dack taking the ball on up the right wing sending in a low cross to the near post, Cloney covering the angle snatching the ball up into her gloves. Brown with a strong challenge on Sutton in the middle. Thorpe winning a throw deep on the right Rooke up with Simmons the ball played into the top of the area Simmons into challenge for the ball, Thorpe appealing for a foul incensed when the decision goes the other way.
Get the decision as Aylsham mount an attack through the middle Sophie Lubbock taking the ball on sending it on for her sister Vicki top of the area the ball striking her arm as she looks to see it down. Warnes getting hold of the ball on the right for Thorpe looking to get forwards keeping Butcher busy at left back for Aylsham the defender closing Warnes down winning the ball as she looks to skip inside.
Sophie Lubbock moving inside with the ball off a throw up on Aylsham’s left feeds it on into for Vicki Lubbock inside the D, Artis tackling well putting the ball back to her keeper to clear. Cloney then racing out of her area to clear as Dack sends Vicki Lubbock through on the right channel. Allum with the ball central for the visitors putting the ball on for Vicki Lubbock again making a right channel run 20 yards out puts a lobbed effort narrowly wide of the far post.
Rumney getting her boot up well to intercept and a diagonal ball if lifted forwards from the right. Aylsham pressing at the start of the 2nd half Claughton shifting the ball between her feet getting on the move up the left squaring a cross into the area, Rooke cutting it out for Thorpe behind for the corner. Defending one corner Thorpe get themselves a corner of there own won on the left played in near side knocked on across goal, Warnes not quite able to get there as she charges in at the far post.
Thorpe winning the ball on the left Frankland inside for Simmons puts Warnes in central running on is tackled by Claughton, the visitors on the counter up towards Vicki Lubbock, Moore getting back at her to defend for Thorpe. The game opening up Sutton with time on the ball through the middle picking out Warnes on the right with a long range pass, taking it to the by-line tracked by Butcher can’t keep the cross in play.
Claughton pressing on the left putting the cross into the box for Vicki Lubbock, Rooke close in to knick the ball off her feet. The ball cleared into the middle Brown winning it back for Aylsham out to Claughton left up the line flashing a cross in close to goal, Cloney claiming the ball. Musson out to Sutton up on the right with Warnes wide they exchange passes before Sutton corner of the area sends it into the box with Mileham breaking in central to attack it her stooping header knocked down into the six yard box, straight at Arnoup falling back Aylsham captain blocking with her legs scrambling the ball away to safety.
End to end as both sides look for a goal Claughton free to attack up the left sending a cross into the box defended dropping to the right of goal, Dack rushing onto it fizzing a shot on the angle over. Dack being brought off then with Simpkin coming back on with an hour played. Both sides putting in some strong tackles Warnes diving in on Butcher. Arnoup fouling Sutton, risky when already on a yellow. Aylsham changing their goalkeeper, Walford coming off, Hannah Lock coming on.
A delay as Sutton receives treatment is okay to play on. Le Beau coming back on for Thorpe. The hosts remain unhappy with the referee feeling they are not getting the decisions, press high on Aylsham’s box, Warnes right in central, Simmons looking to turn tackled by Brown. Aylsham come right Cleaver getting forwards to support Simpkin, Musson coming in to close her down cutting out the pass. Le Beau pulling left for Thorpe on down the line her cross into the box cut out by Arnoup.
Brown into defend on Warnes as she gets hold of the ball central looks to move right. A lively contest Thorpe pressing on looking for a goal to get themselves back into the game. Claughton brought down by Moore on the left as she gets on the move with the ball on the left. The set-piece sent up into the box defended by Moore for Thorpe out to the left cleared by Frankland. Aylsham getting the ball back on the right moving forwards the cross lifted into the area Allum with the deft header knocking it on to Vicki Lubbock left of goal, Moore defending well against the attacker getting hold of the ball to clear.
Bobbin and O’Connor back on for Aylsham with Cleaver and Allum coming off the switch seeing Arnoup move up top to join the attack with a little under 20 minutes to play. Claughton surging on with the ball left side inside for Sophie Lubbock attempting to pick out Arnoup inside the D, closed down by Rooke. Butcher with a timely tackle to stop Warnes getting away on the right. O’Connor in the back line now cutting out Frankland’s cross from the left played into Le Beau.
A close call as Arnoup as flagged offside with Simpkin playing the ball on. Claughton coming off for Aylsham with Dack returning to the action. Bobbin with a rash challenge barging into Frankland, lucky to get away with no card. Simmons linking up with Warnes on the right the cross cleared by Bobbin. Into the final 10 minutes the game a little ragged as Butcher breaks on up the left feeding the ball on for Dack her cross into the area cut out by Eglington for Thorpe.
Bobbin with a fantastic ball forwards releasing both the Lubbock twins to attack, Sophie central taking it on into the box unselfish looking to lay it out wide to Arnoup up on the right screws her shot wide. Aylsham winning a corner on the left load the six yard box the ball swung in close to goal rebounding off players drops to Vicki Lubbock her shot blocked. Bobbin with another robust tackle on Warnes this time gets a yellow emotions running a little high. Artis coming off for Thorpe with Mileham back on.
Bobbin with another strong tackle bringing down Warnes again, Frankland to play in towards the area Butcher defending seeing the ball out for a late Thorpe corner. Aylsham bringing off Bobbin before she is sent off, emotions high Aylsham on the cusp of winning the title need to remain calm. The corner in close to the near post Butcher turning it behind for a 2nd corner as the game moves into stoppage time. Thorpe continue to push forwards Aylsham keeping it tight ready to counter Vicki Lubbock into the left channel sending a cross through the six yard box, Arnoup throwing herself at the ball right of goal can’t get a touch. The final whistle blows and Aylsham have done it they are CHAMPIONS.
Full time Thorpe St Andrew Women 0-3 Aylsham FC Women
Emotions running high towards the end as Aylsham closed in on the end to a magnificent debut season in Norfolk Women’s Division Two winning their final game of the season to claim the title. Scoring 116 goals along the way while conceding just 8. Getting on top in the first half after a competitive opening 20 minutes scoring at regular intervals after that to control the game at half time. Thorpe continued to ask questions 2nd half pushing on but couldn’t find that final ball, Aylsham having a little extra quality, determined in defence getting forwards well especially on the flanks.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto another Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. Several stand out performances and as tempted as I am not to single out an individual player, I am not going to break my own rules. For Thorpe, Tabbi Mileham did well out on the left getting hold of the ball and looking to get it inside for Le Beau in attack. Georgie Rumsey making some vital tackles at the back as did Sarah Rooke. Bex Sutton in the middle with a good range of passing looking to get the forward players through on goal. Aylsham with a strong team performance from back to front. Captain Jordan Arnoup winning the ball at the back well. Carly Allum making some great runs into the channels getting back to win her fair share of the ball, Cayla Brown coming on showing a determination to win the ball. The Lubbock twins, Sophie and Vicki linking up well together through the middle. Out on the flanks Aylsham carried to biggest threat, Rhiannon Dack getting forwards well on the right, scoring the opening goal, the award goes to her opposite number Hannah Claughton some fantastic runs on the ball on the left driving forwards causing Thorpe problems throughout.
Aylsham enjoying the celebrations at the end with flares and champagne most off it spilt mind with a good share being worn by the squad almost got caught in the charge to escape a soaking at the end but great to see a team celebrating. Congratulations to Aylsham FC Women of becoming Champions of Norfolk Women’s Division Two.
Three midweek games done one more to go, off to Carrow Road this Friday for the Norfolk Women’s County Cup final. My thanks to both clubs for this assistance with the team details and great to catch up with Thorpe at last and have a chat with a few footballing friends.
by Darren Gilham