NEEDHAM Market Women are eyeing a league and cup double after securing promotion.
The club won 2-1 at Newmarket Town, their nearest challengers, on Sunday to clinch the Eastern Region Women’s Football League Division One North title.
Goals from Lina Nagib and Mia Etheridge ensured that they were crowned champions with two games to spare.
Manager Warren Lewis-Claxton said: “We had a couple of postponed games in weeks gone by, so we could have secured promotion prior to Sunday, but it was a good battle, away from home, and we pushed through and got the important three points.
“It’s a great achievement for everyone, it’s an exciting moment for us. We are all very proud that we were able to win the league, and it means all the hard work we have put into this season both on and off the pitch so far has paid off.
“It’s about more than all the players and the coaches, it’s the other volunteers that help out too, and of course the support we get on the sidelines too. It’s all greatly appreciated, and it all forms part of the success brought so far this season and going forward.”
Lewis-Claxton said that promotion to the Premier Division was the aim at the start of the season: “I think it always had to be an aim, we want to progress up the pyramid and we were confident that it was something we could look to achieve this year with promotion to the Premier Division.
“With the last couple seasons being curtailed with Covid, it was tough, as it was for everyone, but we did our best to not let that hinderance us and we are happy to be able to get the promotion we wanted.”
Needham Market players celebrate at the final whistle on Sunday after winning the Eastern Region Women’s Football League Division One North title. Main photograph: The Needham Market players celebrate being crowned champions. Photographs: Ben Pooley
He said the club were now looking forward to the challenge of playing in the Premier Division next season.
“It’s something we are really looking forward to and can’t wait to be in the division. We are up for the challenge and believe we can hold our own in it too.
“It also gives us the opportunity to play teams we are yet to face and gain some new experiences. We want to keep building and developing, and this gives us another platform on which to do that,” he continued.
Lewis-Claxton said that the camaraderie of the team had played a pivotal role in their success so far this season.
“We work hard every week to maintain our standards and play the football we know we can. Everyone knows their roles and responsibilities within the team, we have a way in which we want to play and look to stick to it.
“Everyone brings something unique to the team, and that balance has really helped us. A big thing to highlight is the team’s camaraderie, the bond these players have both on and off the field has really pushed them forward.”
Needham recently defeated Premier Division opponents Luton Town 2-1 away from home in the League Cup Third Round to set up a quarter-final tie at home to Haringey Borough.
That tie is taking place on Sunday, March 13th – the day after the men’s first team face Stockport County in the quarter-finals of the Buildbase FA Vase, also at Bloomfields.
Needham Market Women's manager Warren Lewis-Claxton pictured after his side clinched the Eastern Region Women’s Football League Division One North title on Sunday. Photograph: Drew Kendall
It will be a tough tie against another Premier Division side, but Lewis-Claxton said they would approach the match with a positive mindset.
He said: “We have to be positive, anything can happen in the cup! I think all bar us and Herts Vipers, the rest of the teams are Premier Division teams.
“We look forward to the game against Haringey and do our best to get through to the semi-finals. We have a lot of confidence in the group, so we will go into the game with a positive mindset for sure.”
Needham Market are also through to the semi-finals of the Suffolk Women’s Cup, where they face AFC Sudbury Reserves at Hadleigh United FC on Sunday, March 20th.
Lewis Claxton said: “I think we have to be optimistic, and not rule out any possibilities. We always want to win any game that we play, and we have to get to the final first.
“However, of course it’s in the back of our minds, it’s a cup we’ve reached the semis/final over the last few seasons, so to be able to win it would be even better, especially after already winning the league. Who knows, we could find ourselves making further ground in our league cup too!”