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Suffolk Women's Cup final a step too far for Needham Market Women as Ipswich Town run out 8-0 winners at Portman Road

Anyone walking in on the HomeStore Self Storage Suffolk Women’s Cup cup final in the moments after the final whistle on Tuesday would have wrongly guessed Needham Market Women had won it.

Needham women salute their noisy fans at Portman Road after a clinical display of finishing saw them lose the Suffolk Women’s Cup final 8-0 Pictures: Ben Pooley
Needham women salute their noisy fans at Portman Road after a clinical display of finishing saw them lose the Suffolk Women’s Cup final 8-0 Pictures: Ben Pooley

That is because, despite an 8-0 thrashing, they were able to prove that sometimes it is the taking part that does really count.

Against an established FA Women’s National League side in Ipswich Town, who play three leagues higher, they were always going to be massively up against it on a big pristine Portman Road pitch.

But having only been a goal down heading into added time in the first half, they showed a crowd not far off 800 – the majority of whom seem to have turned up to cheer them on – they deserved to be there.

And as a way to finish their first ever season together, having only been formed in the summer, a showpiece final at a professional club was already a prize in itself, regardless of the eventual outcome of it, though manager Freya Louis felt they were not deserving of the eight-goal drubbing that the history books will record.

“The scoreline doesn’t do it justice at all,” she said with chants of ‘Needham, Needham’ ringing out from the stands as Ipswich prepared to receive the trophy for a fifth season in a row.

“They got their second one really late (in the first half) and I went into that changing room and I just said ‘girls, you’ve got this in the bag’.

“You’ve got to understand that they are three leagues above us and we had six players at the start of the season, and now we’re at Portman Road! It’s a huge achievement and right now these girls feel like they have won because we are stood here in front of hundreds of Needham fans.

“I don’t see Town being as excited in front of their fans and we have just lost eight nil! It does not show our amazing game but oh my God, these girls have been an absolute pleasure.

“I feel like I have won tonight, just to stand here and be with this group of girls who have given everything all season.”

At 8-0 down, the plucky Needham side were still desperate to give their supporters a goal to cheer. And they came so close to it in added time when Francesca Rainbird converted a cross, only for the offside flag to halt the celebrations.

“We still celebrated like it counted. Francesca deserved a goal. She has got 33 goals and one at Portman Road would have topped it off but they all gave a hell of a performance,” said Louis, who was this week named as Needham’s first girl’s and women’s development manager for Needham Market Academy, a voluntary role that will see her work towards opening a bigger pathway for female footballers at the club. They currently have an under-14s team as their only other female side, but will also introduce a developent team next season, who will train alongside the first team and also participate in the the Suffolk Girls & Women’s League.

On that appointment the 22-year-old, who hopes having a young female in charge will be a good draw for recruitment, said: “It is really exciting as there are so many talented girls in Suffolk and I think clubs are now starting to realise if they treat the girls the same as they do the boys academy then they are going to grow some amazing players.”

On Tuesday it had all started so well for Louis’ league runners-up side, who played some attractive passing passages as they threatened the Ipswich goal early on. An eye-catching one-two with Laura Tulley took Rainbird into the penalty box before her curling shot was comfortably saved by Sian Fagg.

At the other end they rode their luck a little but there was also some stoic defending, encapsulated when Niamh Thomas took the ball off the toes of Town’s lively number seven Natasha Thomas in the area, while a good save from recently-turned goalkeeper Amber Leeks, to push Amanda Crumps’ shot around the post, ensured they continued to be goalless past the 20-minute mark.

But seven minutes later a defensive mix-up, as Leeks came for a whipped in cross from the right flank from Thomas only to miss it, led to Charlotte Kellett sweeping home into an unguarded net.

Further chances followed for perennial winners Ipswich including Thomas hitting the post.

Needham’s resistance was eventually broken again four minutes into added on time when Thomas broke clear on to Crump’s defence-splitting past before providing a cool low finish.

A good start was needed by the Marketwomen in the second half to shake off the effects of the hurtful timing of that second goal, but things went the other way as Ipswich doubled their lead within three minutes of play resuming to take the final firmly away from the debutants.

Thomas struck again in the 47th minute before Crump poked the ball past Leek within a minute of the re-start.

Leek made a couple of good saves before number five arrived in the 58th minute via a fine Amy Nash solo effort.

Ipswich then completed the rout with three goals inside five punishing minutes, from Toni-Anne Wayne, Sophie Welton and Crump again.

Needham Market: Leeks, Thomas, Stock (c), Young, Smith, Henderson, Shepherd, Sparkes, Tuley, Balfour, Rainbird. Subs (all used): Dunn, Carter, Chaplin, Goddard, Wilkinson. Attendance: 769

Player of The Match: Amber Leeks

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