FAST-STARTING AFC Sudbury lifted the Suffolk Women’s Cup for just the second time.
Two goals in the opening 16 minutes set AFC Sudbury on their way to a deserved 3-1 victory over Needham Market in Friday night’s final at Colchester United’s Jobserve Community Stadium.
Goals from Evie Creaton and Jess Allen put AFC Sudbury in control and although Ele Catchpole pulled one back just before the break, Alex Penny restored the two-goal advantage soon after.
AFC Sudbury, who reached back-to-back finals in 2013-14 and 2015-15, ran out comfortable winners, leaving Needham Market runners-up for the third time in four seasons.
After just four minutes AFC Sudbury gave a glimpse of what was to come as Alex Penny crossed from the right and Needham Market keeper Dani Clark was forced into a good save by Jess Allen.
Her opposite number Millie Carter then smothered an effort from Lina Nagib, before a splendid last-ditch tackle by Teigan McHale prevented Lois Balfour from scoring an almost certain goal.
AFC Sudbury took the lead after ten minutes when Creaton got in behind the Needham Market defence and slotted home.
Needham Market's Ele Catchpole heads home after Abbie Fisher's free-kick struck the crossbar. Main photograph: Evie Creaton shoots past Needham goalkeeper Dani Clark to put AFC Sudbury ahead after ten minutes. Photographs: Paul Voller
Needham’s defence were struggling to cope with the pace of AFC Sudbury’s attacks and six minutes later Creaton again got clear and although Clark saved, the ball fell invitingly for Allen to sweep home.
Mid-way through the half Penny took advantage of a misdirected header by Niamh Thomas to advance towards goal before flashing a shot wide of the far post.
Catchpole hooked over the crossbar from Balfour’s right-wing corner, but she did get on the scoresheet after 41 minutes, heading home over Carter after Abbie Fisher’s 35-yard free-kick came back off the bar.
However, AFC Sudbury restored their two-goal lead just two minutes into the second period. Creaton crossed from the left, Allen scuffed her shot across goal and Penny was there to slide in at the far post.
There was little in the way of goalmouth action thereafter, although Fisher sent another long-range free-kick narrowly off target on the hour and Clark had to make a double save to deny AFC Sudbury a fourth.
The Cup and medals were presented by Suffolk FA Chair Phil Lawler and Isabel Chaplin, Chair of the Suffolk Youth Council and Secretary of the Suffolk Girls’ & Women’s Football League.
AFC Sudbury players and management celebrate after being presented with the Suffolk Women's Cup. Photograph: Paul Voller
AFC Sudbury manager Luke Mallett said: “It was a well-balanced and competitive game. Other than Ipswich Town these are the best two teams in Suffolk at the moment and it was a real battle.
“We have a young side with several teenagers and oldest players being three 26-year-olds and our young girls all stuck to the game plan for 90 minutes and their concentration was superb.
“We are notorious for starting slowly, but we have started to believe in ourselves more and we knew we could hurt them on the counter-attack with our pace.”
AFC Sudbury could complete a treble this season; if they win their remaining league games they will be champions of East Region Women’s League Division One South and they face Hutton in the league Plate Final.
AFC Sudbury: Millie Carter, Ronni Harrison, Amber Provan, Teigan McHale, Boni Shepherd, Isabella Crawford, Kate Edwards, Phoebe Guiver, Evie Creaton, Alex Penny, Jess Allen. Used subs: Faith Candice, Sophie Jeffrey, Tye Smith, Kaylee Dodd, Luiza Silva.
Needham Market: Dani Clark, Nicole Pannifer, Niamh Thomas, Laura Bloomfield, Ele Catchpole, Ellie Rossiter, Nicola Henderson, Lois Balfour, Mia Etheridge, Lina Nagib, Abbie Fisher. Used subs: Eloise Ward, Jo Brawn, Paige Wakefield, Jodie Sharp, Molly Hall
Referee: Nick Ward.