THE East Anglian Counties Championship title is out of the hands of Suffolk FA Ladies sponsored by HomeStore Self Storage after they suffered a 6-2 loss to Kent FA Ladies.
A Kent victory over Hertfordshire FA in their final match next week will secure them the Fred Welham Cup, and deny Suffolk back-to-back title wins. However, a draw would see Suffolk retain the cup.
Suffolk were second best throughout to a strong Kent side, which included 12 players from Gillingham, in Thursday night’s fixture at VCD Athletic in Dartford.
Indeed, had the hosts scored more than the six goals Suffolk could have had no complaints, such was Kent’s dominance.
The visitors fell behind as early as the third minute, Charlotte Gurr releasing Kallie Balfour whose cross to the far post was met by the unmarked Emily Symonds.
It was 2-0 in the 17th minute, Gurr fed Balfour again down the left and her cross to the near post was turned into her own net by Aimee Harrison as she attempted to clear.
A poor goal kick by goalkeeper Charlie Osborne was fired emphatically back over her head by Amy Russ from just outside the penalty area to put the hosts three up after just 21 minutes.
However, Suffolk pulled one back a minute later, skipper Paige Shorten intercepting a pass and driving forward before finding the bottom corner with a well-placed shot from 20 yards.
Shorten came close to reducing the deficit four minutes later, her 30-yard free-kick being touched onto the underside of the bar by Katie Startup before bouncing down but not crossing the line.
Osborne tipped a Balfour shot onto the bar on the half hour and pushed away Gurr’s follow-up and then blocked Symonds’ close-range effort as Kent threatened to extend their advantage.
The only surprise at the interval was that Suffolk were still in contention, but they fell further behind five minutes after the restart, Jade Keogh sliding the ball into the path of Gurr to sidefoot home.
Goalkeeper Leanne Smith, one of four Suffolk second-half debutants, lasted only 15 minutes before suffering an injury and being replaced by Osborne.
She had only been on the pitch two minutes when Kent added a fifth in the 62nd minute, Symonds’ cross was blocked but the ball fell to Fliss Gibbons who fired home.
It was 6-1 ten minutes later, a crossfield pass from Symonds setting up Gibbons to finish with a clinical cross-shot.
Suffolk did pull one back with seven minutes remaining, leading scorer Natasha Thomas beating two defenders before slotting home, but Suffolk finished a well-beaten side.
Paige Shorten (red shirt) is pictured above tackling a Kent opponent during the match at VCD Athletic.
Kent Ladies: Katie Startup, Ellie Manning, Millie Waud, Grace Seeley, Jade Keogh, Cat Cooper, Jenny Newman, Charlotte Gurr, Kallie Balfour, Amy Russ, Emily Symonds. Used subs: Fliss Gibbons, April Bowers, Vanisha Patel.
Suffolk Ladies: Charlie Osborne (Walsham-le-Willows), Jac Ball (Ipswich Town), Eva Hubbard (Ipswich Town), Paige Shorten (Norwich City), Sian Fagg (Ipswich Town), Aimee Harrison (Ipswich Town), Natasha Thomas (Ipswich Town), Abbie Everson (Lowestoft Town), Rox Small (Ipswich Town), Hollie Clement (Ipswich Town), Gemma Moore (Lowestoft Town). Used subs: Zoe Cossey (Ipswich Town), Ciera Flatt (Lowestoft Town), Cassie Craddock (Lowestoft Town), Tamesha Blackwood (Ipswich Town), Leanne Smith (Ipswich Town).
Referee: Aaron Conn.