Tuesday 16th May
Suffolk Women’s County Cup Final
sponsored by MH Goals
A Tuesday evening trip down the A12 to Colchester United FC’s JobServe Stadium to watch the final of this season’s Suffolk Women’s County Cup sponsored by MH Goals. Needham Market Women reaching their 4th final in 5 years taking on Bungay Town Ladies reaching the final for the first time in their history.
A huge gap between the clubs, Needham market overwhelming favourites with a strong debut season playing in the ERWFL Premier Division, Bungay Town Ladies two leagues further down the pyramid playing in Norfolk Women’s Division One.
The competition dominated by Ipswich Town Women since the Suffolk and Norfolk County Cups became separate competitions in 2010. Having featured in 9 of the last 11 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 in 2021. AFC Sudbury Ladies the only other side to have won the competition in that time. The 2022 final held between a new AFC Sudbury Women’s side and Needham Market Women both emerging as leading clubs within Suffolk enjoying a rapid growth, Sudbury coming on top to beat Needham Market 3-1to complete a treble that season.
Needham Market Women growing rapidly since they burst onto the scene 5 season’s ago, reaching the County Cup final in their debut season, have since gone on to appear in two more finals while reaching the last 4 in the other. Back to back finals against Ipswich and AFC Sudbury will be aiming to go all the way this time around. Rising through the women’s football pyramid achieving promotion to the ERWFL Premier Division last season, have had a strong debut season in the 5th tier, proving to be a competitive force in an already strong league, talked about as potential title challengers, are on course for a top 4 finish currently 3rd in the table. The women’s set-up part of the academy at Needham Market with a Development side playing in the Suffolk Women’s Premier Division. Striker Molly Hall their top scorer netting 16 goals so far this season, Lois Balfour scoring 13 with Lina Nagib and Eva Hubbard both on 9.
Bungay Town Ladies making history reaching the County Cup Final for the first time in their history. A long established club playing in step 7 of the women’s football pyramid, competing in Norfolk Women’s Division One under Graham Purling, have produced several quality and talented players that have gone on to achieve success at a higher level. With Purling leaving the women’s side a turbulent spell followed with the side struggling a bit losing players. Darren Renwick heading up a new management team for this season Bungay have bounced back well building a squad with a great blend of experience and youth, competitive haven’t always been helped with injuries and again have a few carrying knocks on the bench, there fine cup run cementing their return to challenge at the top end of the table. Lauren Goulder top scorer so far this season with 13 goals. Selina Rowland finding the back of the net for 10 goals while new signing Zoe Cossey has 6 goals from 6 appearances.
Road to the Final
A bye for Bungay Town Ladies in the 1st Round of the County Cup, Needham Market Women were drawn away to Suffolk Women’s Championship side, Leiston St Margarets Ladies. 3 League between the sides Needham Market were too strong as they piled on the goals with Molly Hall, Ellie Rossiter and Paige Wakefield all scoring hat-tricks in a 15-0 win with both Lina Nagib and Charlotte McGrath scoring a brace each a goal each too for Lois Balfour and Abbie Fisher.
No seeding in the Suffolk Women’s County Cup and therefore the potential for the big guns to get drawn together in the early round, exactly what happened in the 2nd Round as we saw last season’s finalists and the two competition favourites drawn together Needham Market hosting AFC Sudbury Women, headed over to Bloomfields that afternoon and was treated to a classic. Sudbury opening the scoring on 20 minutes with Holly Kennard on target the visitors looking strong, Needham Market nevertheless got themselves back on level terms through Jo Brawn. Evie Creaton putting Sudbury back into the lead before Brawn again equalised for Needham Market. Creaton with 2nd goal late in the 1st half to see Sudbury lead 3-2. A different story 2nd half as Needham Market soon got on the front foot Paige Wakefield scoring a thunderbolt to fire them level for a 3rd time. Ellie Rossiter put in on goal to put Needham Market into the lead, Molly Hall securing the win with a 40 yard lob at the death. Bungay progressing with ease to drawn away to Championship bottom side Halesworth Town Women winning the match 7-0.
Into the quarter finals, Needham Market drawn away to play Beccles Town Ladies struggling for results in Norfolk Women’s Division One. Goals through the side Needham Market were leading 3-0 at half-time before going onto win the game 7-0 with Hall again netting a hat-trick. Jodie Sharp bagging herself a brace with Eva Hubbard, Lois Balfour and Nicole Pannifer all getting on the scoresheet. Bungay drawn away to Ipswich Vale Exiles Ladies who would go on to win the Suffolk Women’s Championship in their debut season in women’s football. Selina Rowland on fire that day the attacking midfielder scoring 4 goals with Lauren Goulder finding the back of the net for 2 more in a 6-1 victory.
Neutral venues for the semi-finals in Suffolk, Needham Market taking on East Bergholt United Ladies from the league below at Ipswich Wanderers FC. Needham Market again amongst the goals with Lina Nagib and Jodie Sharp both netting 2 goals, Molly Hall and Mia Etheridge with a goal apiece as they reached a 3rd successive final with a 6-1 win. Had to wait to see who their opponents would be with the other semi-final falling foul to the elements delayed with Bungay taking on Suffolk Premier Division Champions, Brettvale Ladies themselves reaching the County Cup Final 3 seasons ago. Played at Walsham le Willows, goals from Zoe Cossey and Selina Rowland saw Bungay make history as won 2-0 to reach the final.
The JobServe Community Stadium, home of League Two side, Colchester United FC, once again hosting the Suffolk Women’s County Cup Final, a popular stadium for the women’s game with Essex FA also holding their women’s county cup final here and it has of course hosted the Lionesses in the past. A great experience for the players the main stand behind the tunnel and dugout being used. Needham Market bringing some noise with them with a drummer looking to liven up the crowd. A pleasant day the evening warm with the two sides out on the pitch warming up, dry with no rain forecast.
Needham Market Women starting XI – Daisie Gibbs, Nicole Pannifer, Eva Hubbard, Laura Bloomfield, Ele Catchpole, Paige Wakefield, Mia Etheridge, Lina Nagib, Ellie Rossiter, Lois Balfour (C) & Molly Hall. Subs – Charlotte McGrath, Jo Brawn, Jodie Sharp, Poppy Nunn & Niamh Thomas.
Bungay Town Ladies starting XI – Maddie Flatman, Porsha Renwick, Erin Galer, Ruby Roos, Ciera Flatt, Charnelle Riggall (C), Gemma Foster, Selina Rowland, Lucy Hood, Zoe Cossey & Lauren Goulder. Subs – Lyndsey Adams, Lauren Purling, Sofia Serghiou, Poppy Fenn & Amber Leeks.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Needham Market without goalkeeper Daniele Clarke for much of the season out with an Achilles injury. Midfielder Abbie Fisher also a long term casualty with an ACL tear. Daisy Gibbs joining the squad doing well in place of Clarke in goal in her first season in adult football. Bungay picking up a couple of knocks at the weekend in their 3-3 draw away to Caister FC Ladies, Lauren Purling and defender Lyndsey Adams hamstring and ankle respectfully amongst the substitutes. Suffolk FA and the staff at Colchester putting on a show with the teams led out flagbearers either side, lined up and introduced to the guests of honour, Matt Harrod of sponsors MH Goals and Kirsty Smith, Suffolk FA’s Football Development Officer. Both squad getting a picture with the cup before the game… only one will be lifting it though.
Needham Market wearing red shirts and socks with black shorts to get the first half underway with Bungay (also known as The Black Dogs) lined up opposite wearing sky blue shirts with black shorts and socks. The ball rolled back into Wakefield in midfield put back to the defence, Needham Market keeping possession early on playing the ball across the back patient, across to the left played on for captain, Lois Balfour breaking on down the touch line sends the ball inside for Lina Nagib 20 yards out connects with the shot fired in towards goal coming straight at Bungay goalkeeper Maddie Flatman at a comfortable height brought down and claimed.
Bungay winning a free-kick on halfway, don’t commit too many players forwards as the ball it launched up towards the top of the area, Mia Etheridge heading the ball clear for Needham Market push forwards a great diagonal ball releasing Ellie Rossiter to race in clear on the right side, pace travelling inside to the corner of the area pulls her shot wide past the far post. Eva Hubbard pushing up on the left attempting to play a long range pass into the attacks the ball won by Bungay central defender, Ceira Flatt.
Selina Roland bringing the ball on through the middle for Bungay has captain Charnelle Riggall ahead of her the ball rolled into her feet looks to hold off Nagib as she turns inside 25 yards out, Nagib getting a foot on the ball to win the ball. Zoe Cossey having been at Ipswich herself has played with several of the Needham market players previously with the club, picking up the ball 30 yards out drives forwards, stopped by Ele Catchpole at the back for Needham Market. Rossiter showing good pace out on the right a ready outlet as Needham Market look to get in behind the Bungay defence a cross from the right cleared by Gemma Foster.
Hubbard coming into the midfield onto the ball has a go from 30 yards out sent over the crossbar. Needham Market slow in their build up happy to move the ball about a large pitch the ball being stroked from left to right. Attacking down the flanks a cross coming into the box from the left cleared by Ruby Roos for Bungay.
Needham Market push on through the middle Etheridge laying the ball out to Rossiter wide right, held up by Bungay’s Erin Galer, rolls it back up the line for Nicole Pannifer send back in central for Wakefield forwards into Etheridge top of the D puts it through for Rossiter to attack inside the box, Flatt blocking, the ball cleared out to the left of the area the shot from distance struck over. 10 minutes played Needham Market probing creating a few chances in front of goal, Bungay working hard to close them down the ball being sprayed about the pitch, Balfour attempting to slide Rossiter through from the right, but the flag goes up against her.
Moments later Balfour succeeds in sending Molly Hall clear of the defence central after the ball, Flatman though rushing out to the top of her area getting to the ball first launching it clear. The pace of the game controlled by Needham Market with possession of the ball, Etheridge from the left curling a cross onto the roof of the net. Rossiter bursting on down the right to get after a long diagonal ball into the corner from the by-line sends a cross in near side Hall helping it on into Nagib on the penalty spot places her shot straight at the keeper.
The Bungay defence back inside their box defending a Balfour’s high ball from the right drops for Nagib left, held up well by Roos inside the box, Hubbard running on to support, Roos stretching for the ball does well to the clear. Cossey looking to hold the ball up up top for Bungay closely marked turn her defender can turn to attack Needham Market regaining possession out to Rossiter on the right races on her cross squared into the area cleared by Roos.
Rowland putting the ball into Cossey 30 yards out again closely marked this time however wriggles free turning right to pull the trigger, the shot clipped in towards goal, straight at Gibbs, gets down it claim it. Bungay finding a little joy in the middle as Foster puts the ball on for Rowland to fire forwards into Cossey, free 20 yards out looks to move inside before dragging the ball back with her left foot to turn and strike with her right a rising effort, again Gibbs it behind brings the shot down safely.
A couple for chances for Bungay giving them encouragement with 20 minutes on the clock. Flatt making a timely interception at the back as Hubbard coming inside form the left looks to send the ball into Etheridge pulling into the right channel. Needham Market strong on the left the ball from Nagib into Balfour near post attempts to lay it back out into the middle of the box, Galer getting a boot on it to clear for Bungay.
Flatman with a great save diving down to glance the ball wide of her left post as Pannifer strikes the ball in low and fast from 30 yards out, a corner for Needham Market. Flung into the mix in front of goal, a foul spotted by referee Tom Ling as Galer goes down. Hubbard getting on well with the ball for Needham Market left side flashing a cross wide across the face of goal. Roos again dealing with a ball lifted into the area from deep.
GOAL! Needham Market have been knocking the break through finally coming in the 25th minute as they open the scoring, Wakefield in the middle playing a great ball through for Etheridge breaking on into the right channel in behind the defence into the box closing in on the six yard box fires her shot across the keeper into the bottom corner wheeling away in celebration 1-0.
Bungay give the ball away from the restart Rossiter surging away with it on the right threatening to go all the way the Bungay defence recovering well the ball fed inside cut by Roos played back into Flatman to kick clear. Bungay falling behind looking to push on Riggall winning the ball in the middle up into Goulder shifts it inside for Cossey, Laura Bloomfield in to clear it for Needham Market at the back. Etheridge making some great forward runs for Needham Market into the right channel taking the ball all the way to the by-line before cutting a ball back across the face of goal, Balfour in at the far post the flag raised against her Flatman claims.
Bungay continue to close down the ball in the middle, Needham Market though keeping the pitch wide Rossiter fed the ball on the right taking it on sends a cross flashing through the six yard box out to the left retrieved by Hubbard fired a stinging ball in to the near post, Etheridge there but coming at her fast can get an instinctive touch turns the ball wide. Half an hour played Needham Market pushing on down the flanks, Rossiter into the corner held up by Galer shifts the ball back up the line to wrap her foot around the cross in central Roos intercepts charged down going behind for the corner. A inswinging delivery put in high at the near post Flatman up well to get a glove on the ball glove it on across the box her defence clearing.
Rossiter away on the right for Needham Market sending another inviting ball across the face of the Bungay goal, Balfour coming onto it turns it over from close range at the far post. Riggall and Rowland scrapping for possession in the middle for Bungay on for Cossey, is bundled over. Rowland with a turn and hit from 30 yards out striking the ball on target, Gibbs seeing it all the way across her goal to catch the dropping ball. Etheridge with another dynamic run through the left channel getting onto the pass from Wakefield, running on Roos on her shoulder pressing her gets a low shot away but not troubling Flatman, down low to claim.
Nagib getting the ball into her feet left corner of the area takes it on, Porsha Renwick stepping in to tackle for Bungay. The Bungay defence under pressure but battling to keep the score down Hubbard away on the left the cross long into the six yard box Hall rising at the far post not quite able to get her head to it drops into Rossiter wide right on the angle drives the ball into the side netting baking a knick off a defender corner awarded.
Riggall putting the ball into Cossey in attack turns sending it on for Goulder, caught a little flat footed, gives Gibbs time to come out to the top of her area and claim the ball. The game heading into stoppage time just a minute to be played, Catchpole putting the ball on for Wakefield in the middle picks out Balfour left of the area 20 yards out lays it into Nagib on the flanks her cross into the near post won by Flatt for Bungay. Bungay with one last crack at goal as they win a free-kick inside the Needham Market half cleared back to Riggall has a go from distance the ball high over the crossbar.
Half-time Needham market Women 1-0 Bungay Town Ladies
Needham Market leading by a single Mia Ethridge goal at the break. Creating chances could and maybe should have been more, manager Warren Lewis-Claxton not looking overly happy as they head into the changing room. No doubt in control of the game moving the ball well if anything Needham Market have been wasteful in front of goal, getting forwards well lacking a clinical edge and no doubt will be looking to change that in the 2nd half. Bungay despite trailing will be pleased with how the first half has gone working hard to close the ball down stretched with Needham Market getting the ball across the park have defended well Flatman making a great save. while creating a few opportunities of their own.
No changes for either side at the break Bungay to kick-off the and half played back into Rowland lifts it forwards into Cossey, Catchpole in to defend for Needham Market. Bloomfield getting back to defend on Goulder in attack as the defender is sold short on the pass at the back as the striker looks to take the ball forwards.
Nagib out left on the move with the ball for Needham Market on for Balfour to cross into the near post Hall the target, Roos into challenge clearing the ball for Bungay.
GOAL! Needham Market pressing forwards attacking down the left Rossiter sending the cross into the six yard box Hall rising in the middle connecting with the header her attempt crashing down off the crossbar bouncing on the line scrambled clear out to the right, players rushing on Pannifer latching onto the ball bursting into the area and smashing a shot on the angle low and hard past the keeper 2-0.
Needham Market finding their clinical edge just 2 minutes into the 2nd half to double their lead. Pannifer getting forwards on the right now laying the ball forwards for Hall top of the area, Roos in on her close to defend, Wakefield looking to take on the loose ball 25 yards out, Riggall tracking back on her with a great tackle for Bungay as they look to get the ball forwards themselves.
GOAL! Won at the back Needham Market are quick to turn play around and hit Bungay on the counter attack the defence pressed high, Wakefield plays a superb pass in behind for Hubbard racing away to the left, taking it on into the box, strikes the ball low across the keeper into the bottom corner 3-0.
Bungay undone by two quickfire goals at the start of the 2nd half, make a change bringing off Renwick with Poppy Fenn coming on. Rowland finding Goulder in the left channel for Bungay 25 yards out attempts to lift the ball across he area to Cossey on the right, Hubbard defending for Needham Market
GOAL! Needham Market hit Bungay on the counter again another great through ball seeing Nagib clear in behind on the left this time comes infield with the ball looking for an opening as she moves across the D, strikes the ball in towards the left post rising the ball smashes against the inside of the post and is deflected across goal o land inside the net on the right 4-0.
3 quick goals in an 8 minute burst at the start of the 2nd half seeing Needham Market blow Bungay away making up for the chances wasted in the first half a clinical start to the 2nd period seeing the ball buried into the back of the net with venom. How will Bungay respond will no doubt be shell shocked need to steady the ship as Needham Market come again down the left flank Nagib though offside as she goes to attack the cross at the far post colliding with the keeper, Flatman stays down needing treatment, both sets of players coming over to the benches to take on fluids.
Cossey stealing in on the ball central, drives forwards letting fly from 20 yards out her shot swerving away to the left coming at Gibbs at a comfortable height, wraps her gloves around the ball.
GOAL! Needham Market extending the score line in the 58th minute as Rossiter is sent clear on the right to take the ball on into the box closing in on goal strikes it hard on the angle to drive the ball home 5-0.
Bungay on the ropes pushed back, Flatt in to close down Ethridge as she looks to charge into the box with the ball on the left out for a throw in. Hubbard taking the ball on from Nagib left taking it down the line into the box attempting to cut it back up to Nagib, Rowland back to tackle for Bungay. A double change for Needham Market Charlotte McGrath and Poppy Nunn coming on with Wakefield and Hubbard coming off.
Needham Market pressing in the final 3rd the ball into Nagib in the left channel powers on with the ball cutting inside to shoot the ball angled in cross the keeper, Flatman saving pushing the ball out to the right. Etheridge playing the ball out to Nunn on the left drives on, Fenn on her shoulder putting her under pressure as she enters the box her strike put into the side netting. A triple switch for Needham Market with 22 minutes left to play, Nagib, Rossiter and Hall coming off, Niamh Thomas, Jodie Sharp and Jo Brawn coming on.
Needham Market winning a free-kick the ball played out to the right, Etheridge bursting on with the ball shooting on the angle the ball into held by Flatman at her near post. Bungay making a change bring on Lauren Purling for Hood. Etheridge pulling right coming inside top of the area, Foster closing her down has Pannifer racing on wide playing the ball out to her the cross in from deep claimed by the keeper.
Bungay feed the ball into Goulder getting half a yard on the Needham Market defence central pushing for the area hesitates not getting a shot away as Catchpole gets back on her to lunge in with a leg to tackle take the ball away to the left and clear. Needham Market with a corner on the right put into the mix headed out of the area by Roos who then blocks the follow up strike from range. Catchpole playing the ball forwards for Nunn running away on the left her cross in chested down by Roos and cleared.
Bungay regrouping well after Needham market’s onslaught at the start of the 2nd half bring off Rowland, sending on Sophia Serghiou. Brawn sends Nunn away on the left as she races past her on the overlap getting down to the by-line to flash a cross into the box in at Balfour quickly does well to lay it back for Sharp racing in to attack her shot fired straight at the keeper high, Flatman instinctive getting her arms up to knock it down into the ground and grab up into her body. A free-kick for Needham Market out wide on the right, McGrath down with an injury can’t continue, Nagib sent back on.
GOAL! Needham Market add a 6th goal from the resulting free-kick the ball lifted in long across the face of goal red shirts rushing in to attack it Etheridge getting the telling touch to flick it on into the corner of the net 6-0.
Into the final 7 minutes, Catchpole on for Brawn left turns to attack, Fenn getting back on her to challenge for Bungay. Bungay making another change bringing off Foster for Amber Leeks, playing outfield is an experienced goalkeeper in her own rights and interestingly played in goal for Needham Market in their first County Cup final appearance. Needham Market pushing on in attack Bungay tiring continue to work hard, Fenn stopping Nagib getting away on the left.
Riggall getting the ball into Purling on for Goulder up top lays the ball out wide right for Fenn to lift a high ball into the far post, Gibbs seeing it safely into her gloves as Leeks closes in. Cossey very nearly pulling a goal back for Bungay late in the game as Goulder hooks the ball on for her to race onto central, a strong run before striking a low shot to Gibbs’ left, the keeper scrambling across her goal the ball though narrowly wide of the post.
Into the closing stages Nagib curling a shot wide of the right post as she comes inside form the left. Sharp trying her luck from range as the game moves into stoppage time. Brawn on the ball 25 yards out left of goal curling a shot wide of the far post. Nunn flagged offside as Catchpole sends the ball on from the back. Cossey seeing the ball into feet turns and drives for the Needham Market box right of the D, the defence has seen enough as 4 players converge to close her down. Brawn with one last effort flagged offside in the D as she strikes the ball from the right on the volley wide. Needham Market celebrate as they win their 1st County Cup.
Full time Needham Market Women 6-0 Bungay Town Ladies
A 3 goal burst at the start of the 2nd half blowing Bungay out of the water, clinical in front of goal taking their chances, in control of the game throughout getting forwards well using the width spreading play. Adding a 5th and 6th goal to secure their 1st County Cup win and will be hungry for more. Bungay can certainly be proud of themselves working hard conceding just a single goal in the first half. The defence under pressure putting in some great blocks and tackles. The opening to the 2nd half putting them on the back foot but regrouped doing what they could to get forwards creating a couple of good opportunities.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
Onto this evenings Women’s Football East – Player of the Match. A strong performance for Needham Market in attack a battling performance from Bungay in defence. Goalkeeper Maddie Flatman with a couple for good saves and positioning to frustrate Needham market in the 1st half. Ciera Flatt and Ruby Roos doing well at centre back winning the ball and putting in the blocks. Zoe Cossey in attack doing what she could with limited possession to turn and attack the defence. For Needham Market , Eva Hubbard got forwards well to support the attack and set up players, taking her goal well. As did Ellie Rossiter out on the right her pace causing Bungay issues all game a ready outlet going forwards. Paige Wakefield finding her range in midfield with some great assistants. The award goes to Mia Etheridge, opening the scoring made some fantastic runs into the channels, getting about the pitch winning the ball.
Congratulations to Needham Market Women on winning this season’s and their 1st Suffolk Women’s County Cup.
Another enjoyable final held at the JobServe Community Stadium, my thanks to Suffolk FA for their help and hospitality this evening put on a great event. Thanks to for photographers Hannah Parnell and Ben Pooley for the additional pictures used. The drive home not so much fun with the A12 being closed yet again, but got home safely, back into Suffolk again on Wednesday for some action from the Suffolk Women’s Premier Division a busy end to the season but wouldn’t have it any other way.
by Darren Gilham