Both sides are unbeaten this season so far and look hot favourites to win the two promotion spots up for grabs to Division One. Promotion the goal for both sides would be extra special to do it as Champions.
Both sides were formed last season assembling good squads full of talent. That season saw an influx of new sides with Lynn Ladies being another new side whilst Brandon Town Ladies moved across to Norfolk from the Suffolk Women's Division both sides ran away with the Division Two that season whilst Kirkley & Pakefield FC Ladies and North Walsham Angels Ladies finished 3rd and 4th. A further influx of new sides into the Norfolk Women's Football Leagues has seen the creation of a 3rd Division this season.
Kirkley & Pakefield FC Ladies have a 100% win record in the league to date, played 8 won 8 and are 2 points ahead at the top a with 8 wins from 8. Have also reached the semi-finals of the Suffolk Women's County Cup. 3 points today and they open up a huge gap in the race for the league title.
North Walsham Angels Ladies also boast an unbeaten record in the league, drew one of their matches to leave them 2 points behind both having played 8 league games a win today and they move to the top of the table. Watched this fixture between the two sides last season almost a year ago an entertaining game the honours were even 1-1.
The venue today, Walmer Road, Recreation Ground, home of Kirkley & Pakefield FC, The Royals, who run a number of teams through all age groups, bustling with activity with plenty of youth matches having taken place. Boasts a number of pitches, with a clubhouse in the centre with a bar and refreshments. A wet start to Sunday morning, ain't that a surprise, raining heavily all the way there, but the match was on. Played on the main pitch with a small seated stand on one side the rain was driving steadily from one goal to the other it was thankfully to clear up soon after kick off.
Kirkley & Pakefield FC Ladies starting XI - Shauna Brunton O'Neill, Jordan Harriet, Peta Belson, Sue Lyn KIng, Sam Brown, Gemma Farman, Jody Wells, Chantelle Keevil, Sophie Martin, Nikki Wigg (C) & Selina Rowland.
subs- Jodie Fewkes, Abbie Knights & Lisa Sissen.
North Walsham Angels Ladies starting XI - Cyan Fullbrook, Emily Farmer, Sian Wager (C), Megan Champion, Robyn Steele, Sophie Hall, Amy Hemp, Emma Allsopp, Lauren Yarham, Rachel Bussey & Luci Middleton.
subs - Bethany Childs & Imogen Carver.
(roll on roll off substitutes)
Kirkley & Pakefield have the kick off in the 1st half a kitted out in blue shirts with white across the right shoulder, blue shorts and socks with North Walsham lined up opposite in white shirts with black across the shoulders, black shorts and black and white hooped socks. The rain has already started to lighten.
The ball is out on the left side of the pitch from a throw Kirkley & Pakefield look to make ground up the flank played into Chantelle Keevil gets her head down looks to drive forwards, no way past North Walsham captain Sian Wager the ball is won and launched forwards striker Luci Middleton is already on her way seeing the ball drop over her shoulder half a yard on the Kirkley & Pakefield defence right side converging on the area, goalkeeper Shauna Brunton O'Neill comes rushing out to close her down on the corner of the area, Middleton gets her shot past her the ball is rolling towards goal, central defender Sue Lyn King is racing after doesn't look like she can get there, but she does throwing herself down to sweep the ball off the line.
Kirkley & Pakefield get on the ball retain possession in their opponents half Gemma Farman looking for movement ahead of her left and right get's it from captain Nikki Wigg places her pass into her feet edge of the box she looks to spin of her central defensive marker, runs into Wager behind blocks and wins the ball back.
Beside Farman in the Kirkley & Pakefield, Jody Wells latches onto a loose ball out from the back 20 yards out shifts the ball well between her feet to give herself room for the past looking to thread it into the run of Sophie Martin, North Walsham's Emily Farmer gets across the face of her box to tackles and clears, the ball is collected by Farman 25 yards out left side of the area looks to go for the strike, places her shot straight into the gloves of North Walsham goalkeeper Cyan Fullbrook.
GOAL! 10 minutes gone and the game is ebbing and flowing both sides pushing up and a unit their is space in behind for the rapid counter if the ball is won back and played forwards, Kirkley & Pakefield's, Wigg is the player sent through over halfway heading for the box, Fullbrook comes to meet her edge of her area goes down to save as Wigg looks to put the ball through he, the keeper saves the ball pops loose, Martin having gotten up with play gets to it first outside the box right of the D looks to send the ball in towards goal, sends it high up and dropping far post comes down quickly North Walsham get bodies back not alot they can do as the ball drops under the bar and in 1-0.
|Sophie Martin (no11) is congratulated by her Kirkley & Pakefield team mates after scoring the opening goal|
(photo credit Steve Wood)
Middleton is always looking to peel off the shoulder of the last defender for North Walsham if her team mates want to play the ball long, they do out to the right again, Brunton O'Neill was moving before the pass was made seeing Middleton move, the keeper get's her boot on the ball 1st smashing it away for a throw.
Wells with a driving run through the centre fires her pass into Wigg 20 yards out, protects the ball well with Farman getting up to support rolls the ball back to her 25 yards out, goes for the 1st time shot, again she picks out Fullbrook in the middle of the North Walsham goal.
Amy Hemp peels away to the left as Lauren Yarham plays the ball out to her the North Walsham midfielder covering alot of grass, wins her side a throw deep in the Kirkley & Pakefield half. Keep it down their are getting more of the ball was Kirkley & Pakefield try to play it forwards for Wigg or Martin, Rachel Bussey intercepts takes the ball forwards down the right wins a corner of King. The ball is cleared the game is flowing well both sides evenly matched. Wells has a chance to have a shot on goal as a free kick is won on the right outside the box gets the ball through the bodies in front but sends her attempt wide across goal.
Taking the ball up the left Keevil gets deep into North Walsham territory cuts her cross back to the corner of the area where Wigg is waiting, the ball gets trapped under her feet, before she digs the shot out is blocked near post by Megan Champion, with Robyn Steele getting back to mop up the loose ball.
Yarham with a great ball out to the left picks out Middleton looking for space gets hold of the ball and looks to push for the box, again Brunton O'Neill makes the decision to come early is outside the box can't go to ground, does enough as Middleton is caught in two minds ends up running into her and loosing the ball. Emma Allsopp has hold of the ball in the North Walsham half, Hemp is making the run down the left for her the past is good allows Hemp to roll her marker and break in behind, King comes across, is a good little battle between the pair the defender eventually getting the ball out for a North Walsham throw, Kirkley & Pakefield win it from the throw King putting it long for Wigg moving to get into the area, Champion slides in to intercept needs to win the ball and does.
GOAL! 10 minutes before half time and North Walsham get themselves back on level terms Steele with the long pass looking to pick out Middleton peeling away from the last defender again pushing the ball to the left of the area 25 yards out, Brunton O'Neill comes out of her area again, Middleton is just that bit quicker this time gets the ball past the keeper although it takes a knick off her slowing it down, Middleton almost over runs it control marvellously flicking up her heel to bring it under control send the ball into the area shifts it to her right and buries it into the back of the net 1-1.
|Luci Middleton on the ball for North Walsham Angels Ladies scorer of the opening goal|
Kirkley & Pakefield look to respond, Selina Rowland pulling away to the right looks to force her way into the North Walsham box, wins her side a corner kick. The ball is put in at a great height flashes across the six yard box Wigg rises at the back stick can't turn her header on target the ball out behind. At the other end Hemp has made some good runs from midfield all 1st half finds herself the furthest forwards as North Walsham's Steele play it up to her 25 yards out Kirkley & Pakefield stand off her she goes for the strike puts her effort wide across the box.
A late counter attack from Kirkley & Pakefield Keevil travelling along way with the ball up the wing, squares her cross into Wigg coming across to help her left side of the box, wraps her foot over the shot in low near post, Fullbrook saves with her studs as she goes to ground.
Half-time Kirkley & Pakefield FC Ladies 1-1 North Walsham Angels Ladies
Great 1st 45 minutes entertaining the tone was set from minute one when the ball was cleared off the line. Both sides creating chances both with working hard to win the ball and these are two rivals that respect what the other can do.
North Walsham get the 2nd half underway. Abbie Knights is on for Jordan Harriet at the start of the 2nd half for Kirkley & Pakefield. Hemp makes a good run early on in the 2nd half ball at her feet driving for the box central shifts the ball out to Middleton looking to come in from the right, given the ball inside the area gets her shot past King and she slides in to black, Brunton O'Neill has that side of her goal covered gets down to push the ball behind for a corner kick. The ball fired into the crowded near post area is put behind for a goal kick.
North Walsham have started the brighter 2nd half, pushing forwards win another corner, played in from the right Wigg intercepts looks to header the ball away drops for Hemp 20 yards out jinks to her left to open up room to shoot, hits it hard her team mate Yarham far post can't get out of the way. Another North Walsham corner minutes later from the right fired in low with Middleton at the near post jumps over it the ball flying across the face of goal no one behind to capitalise.
Keevil and Wager have enjoyed a fierce battle all game the Kirkley & Pakefield attacker a strong runner with the ball at her feet, drives down the left, wrong foots wager this time as she steps inside Rowland is free to receive the ball turns with Martin looking to run between the North Walsham centre backs, tries to play her though into the box, Champion keeps close tabs to get her toe on the ball 1st.
|Chantelle Keevil attacking for Kirkley & Pakefield FC Ladies|
Wager brings the ball out from the back crossing the halfway line sends the ball into Middleton's feet back to goal edge of the D pokes it back to Hemp who slips as she looks to take on the shot the strike losing all pace rolls low and wide of the post. Hemp is on the move again out to the right this time plenty of space she whips in a good ball Yarham the target, Kirkley & Pakefield's Sam Brown rises highest to head the ball out of the area.
Another North Walsham corner won on the right the initial ball put into the near post area is cleared out to the corner of the box won back by North Walsham the shot comes in across the area is blocked Yarham tries to control the ball, no shot in lays it out to Hemp on the left she places it forwards for Middleton who pulls the trigger, Brunton O'Neill is there to make the save.
GOAL! The pressure was building North Walsham are on top had brought a good crowd with them they were getting vocal too. Up and around the Kirkley & Pakefield box, King goes down nothing is given the ball still in play comes to the feet of Allsopp right of the D she pokes the ball forwards lifting it over Brunton O'Neill and into the back of the net to send the visiting support wild 1-2.
Kirkley & Pakefield respond with a change bring King off sending Jodie Fewkes on she his pushed forwards up the right of the attack with Wigg dropping back into the centre of the defence. Wells looks to bring the ball on down the right, riding one challenge gets in behind come into the area but can't force the ball through past the near post, wins a corner which comes to nothing.
Rowland is the player looking to go through the centre of attack for Kirkley & Pakefield now the ball is played from back to front through the middle to send her in behind the North Walsham defence, Fullbrook comes to meet her saving with her legs the ball swinging out to the right Rowland goes after it, she collides with Farmer as she tries to get hold of it inside the box the referee blows up the decision goes in favour of the visiting team free kick, not that Rowland is happy about it.
Rowland fired up is out on the left as Farman gets the ball out to her, Rowland rolls her defender well to turn and have a run in towards the box coming inside squares it across the D with Fewkes in support cuts her foot across the ball as she goes to hit it pulling it away from the goal wide.
Middleton has he face in her hands in frustration as she misses an open goal. Does all the hard work breaking over the half way line behind the Kirkley & Pakefield defence is 30 yards out Brunton O'Neill has committed herself to the charge Middleton pushes the ball to her right to leave her stranded gets into the box defenders are racing to get back she shots, slices the ball wide of the near post.
Up the other end Kirkley & Pakefield expose a gap on the right side of the North Walsham defence as they counter attack the ball in over the top for Rowland closing in on the corner of the area Fullbrook races out in meet her the both go to ground the keeper sliding in gets hold of the ball 1st Rowland can't stop clatters into her the whistle is blown even as Fullbrook hurt spills the ball and Rowland scrambles up to put the ball into the back of the net. Play is halted then Rowland goes back to check on Fullbrook the keeper is in a lot of pain, needs several minutes to recover not sure if she can carry one looks a painful one to the knee, takes her time getting back up but wants to continue even if she won't be taking the goal kicks as a precaution.
Hemp plays a 30 yard pass for Middleton through the middle, the striker looks to shift the ball right then left between her feet before launching a shot 20 yards out a yard over the crossbar. Kirkley & Pakefield make another change bringing of Peta Belson and sending King back on she goes back into the defence Wigg sent back up to join the attack.
Allsopp with more good running on the right is 20 yards out went she looks up sees Middleton on the move looks to play her in, Brown in front of Middleton does well to shield the ball get it back to her keeper inside the box. Keevil comes off for Kirkley & Pakefield with Lisa Sissen coming on going to the left of a front 3 with Rowland right, Wigg centre as the game enters stoppage time the home side push bodies forwards looking for the goal that will keep their unbeaten record in tack.
Get caught out the ball fed out to Hemp on half way she turns and powers her way into the Kirkley & Pakefield half has substitute Bethany Childs out to her left picks her out, Childs carries the ball out wide with Hemp continuing her run coming towards the left corner of the area, Childs puts the ball back into her, Hemp shoots, Brunton O'Neill makes a fantastic save getting a glove onto the ball to tip it onto the bar and over for a corner kick.
Wells on the drive through the centre hits the shot on the run is blocked by Champion just inside her box can't get it away the ball rolls to Farman she goes to shot gets it all wrong the shot high and wide the result a goal kick.
GOAL! Heartbeat for North Walsham, joy for Kirkley & Pakefield at the death, the goal kick does get the needed clearance on the right side is latched onto by Wells pushes for the corner of the area before firing the ball in finds it's way through the crowded that side of the area rolling through to Wigg unmarked at the far post 3 yards out Fullbrook is there but little she can do as Wigg gets her foot over the ball and blasts it past her into the back of the net 2-2.
|Kirkley & Pakefield captain Nikki Wigg wheels away in celebration after getting the|
equalising goal right at the death (photo credit Steve Wood)
Kirkley & Pakefield with one more attack late in injury time Wells with the ball at her feet surging forwards on the left fires her pass into Martin who looks to hit it as she spins, is falling as she hits it the shot rolling wide, has taken a deflection corner. North Walsham defend and the final whistle blows the match ending 2-2, the gap at the top still 2 points between the 2 with 9 played, both still unbeaten this season, Kirkley & Pakefield drop points for the 1st time in the league.
A great game to watch especially from a neutrals point of view both sides playing well, North Walsham will be disappointed that they didn't hold out so close to taking the 3 points but end of the day will take the draw. A fantastic advert for women's football in Norfolk by two emerging sides only in their 2nd seasons, the 2 meet again on the 21st February a 2pm kick off with Kirkley & Pakefield travelling to North Walsham, so if you want to see what women's football in Norfolk is all about then take a look at this one.
My thanks to both sides for their help with the teams once again, and best of luck for the promotion race ahead.