Norwich City became the 22-23 Harrod Sport Women’s Cup winners on Friday night after a dominant display that saw them overcome Mulbarton Wanderers 3-0 at Carrow Road in front of a record crowd.
After a goalless first half, Ceri Flye opened the scoring just after the restart with a header from an Anna Larkins Corner. Goals from Katie Knights and a late third from Olivia Cook saw the Canaries victorious to win the competition for the 7th time.
It was a stop start opening few minutes in this season’s Harrod Sport Women’s Cup Final, with Alice Parker requiring early treatment after picking up a knock. As both teams tried to settle into the match, the opening exchanges were scrappy as both sides struggled to keep hold of the ball
Norwich started to settle into the game after the first five minutes but were unable to really pressurise Mulbarton in the final third. This changed shortly after when Ellie Smith was brought down midway inside the Mulbarton half. Alice Parker lined up a long rang effort for the first shot of the game, which was gathered by Joanne Hooper in the Mulbarton goal.
Rebecca Russell took a speculative shot from range after good work by Megan Todd, the strike was spilled by Mulbarton stopper Joanne Hooper and cleared by a supporting defender. Norwich again found themselves on the attack, as Anna Larkins pushed forward from right back and produced a hanging cross to the far post which was met by the head of Kathryn Stanley, but the winger was unable to keep the header down.
Ellie Smith then pushed forward with a driving run into the Mulbarton area and squared the ball which was well cut out by Hooper before the waiting Natasha Snelling could pounce. Mulbarton immediately launched a counter attack with Molly Ryan finding space but her shot drifted wide of the post.
With 20 minutes played Norwich began to increase the pressure. A good passage of build-up play found Todd on the left-hand side of the penalty area, only for her cross to be gathered well by Hooper. Norwich continued to attack, as Parker produced a deep left footed cross which found the head of the onrushing Todd who met the ball perfectly only to see her bullet header crash off the crossbar.
Moments later, following more Norwich pressure, Parker delivered another low cross which bundled forward by centre back Ceri Flye but her effort on goal fell agonisingly wide of the post for the Canaries.
After half an hour the pressure was continuing to build on Mulbarton’s back line, but they were standing up to the challenge thanks to the organisation of Lucy Lincoln and Megan Belsey. Todd and Stanley switched flanks and linked up again, with Todd supplying a deep cross which was met with a speculative volley from Stanley that cleared the crossbar.
Norwich continued to press, as Mary Croft sent over a curling cross from the left-hand side, which was nodded down by Todd only for Hooper to parry the effort superbly at the far post. Immediately after, Mulbarton launched a promising counterattack, led by a driving run from Alice Smith, whose searching pass to Rebecca Lake required intervention from City’s Bryony Williams who was out of her area to clear quickly.
Shortly after, Todd found herself with the ball in the final third, and drove confidently towards the Mulbarton penalty area, only for her shot to be blocked by Mulbarton’s Megan Belsey and loop into the hands of Hooper.
Todd’s influence on the match started to grow, as she picked up the ball midway inside her own half and after another driving run delivered a cross to the far post which only just evaded her team mates.
With five minutes left of the first half, Norwich continued to search for the opener but Mulbarton kept their shape well, and were able to nullify the attacks. The last meaningful action of the half saw Snelling’s deflected strike loop towards the Mulbarton goal, but Hooper retreated brilliantly and got a hand to make the save.
Half time: Mulbarton Wanderers 0 – 0 Norwich City
After the interval Norwich found themselves immediately in the Mulbarton half and worked an effective pattern leading to a corner. The set piece delivered by Larkins proved to be decisive which was met by Ceri Fry, who’s header found the back of the net despite multiple defenders on the line trying to clear.
Mulbarton searched for an immediate reply, pushing forward and winning a corner. The quick-thinking short corner routine saw Sophie Jermy deliver a dangerous cross, which was well dealt with by the City defence.
Smith and Katie Knights then linked up well on the edge of the penalty box, with the former latching onto the through ball to provide another cross which was deflected into the hands of Hooper. Norwich then tried to play their way out from the back but the ball fell to Jermy in a promising position but her shot failed to trouble the Norwich goal.
As the game reached the hour mark, the play had become somewhat stop start following a string of injuries. Parker was turned inside her own half, but Mulbarton were unable to capitalise after Bryony Williams had to come to the edge of her area to gather a searching cross from Molly Ryan.
Norwich continued to search for their second as Smith fed Freya Symonds down the right but her angled drive curled wide of the far post.
Shortly after, the Canaries found the second goal they were looking for. Symonds was again involved as she drove forward and squared an inviting ball across the six-yard box that was met by Knights who tapped home to double the advantage.
Despite falling a second goal behind, Mulbarton continued to defend courageously, and were trying to release the pace of Lake up front on the counterattack. This kept the Norwich defence on their toes, as the blues attempted to push forward.
Symonds continued to pose a threat down the right-hand side, but was matched well by Mulbarton’s left back Olivia Smith, who defended well to cut out the danger. Shortly after, Symonds again found herself in a dangerous position and drove a cross into the penalty area only for the assistant’s flag to be raised for offside.
Mulbarton continued to search for a way back into the game, with substitute Francesca Catchpole trying to release Lake behind the Canaries defence. With the territory gained, some excellent linkup play saw Jermy find Lake, who in turn found Catchpole in a promising position but the ball was eventually cleared after a superb last ditch tackle from Larkins.
As the 90-minute mark was reached, the fourth official indicated a further 8 minutes of added time. Norwich were content to keep possession of the ball to wind down the clock, but Symonds again found herself with the ball in a dangerous position and sent in a low cross which was forced over the line by substitute Olivia Cook, to make the score 3-0 and put the game beyond doubt.
Final Score: Mulbarton Wanderers 0 – 3 Norwich City
Mulbarton Wanderers: Joanne Hooper, Lucy Lincoln, Alice Smith, Megan Belsey, Laura Hedtke, Melissa Belsey, Ellie Hunter, Rebekah Lake ©, Olivia Smith, Sophie Jermy, Molly Ryan.
Subs: Olivia Mungham-Gray, Aneliese Smith, Francesca Catchpole, Alice Ladbrooke, Emma Farmer.
Norwich City: Bryony Williams, Alice Parker, Anna Larkins ©, Megan Todd, Ellie Smith, Tash Snelling, Rebecca Russell, Kathryn Stanley, Katie Knights, Ceri Flye, Mary Croft..
Subs: Millie Daviss, Freya Symonds, Ella Gambell, Olivia Cook, Eloise Morran.
Referee: Callum Parke
Assistants: Scott Hawkins & Richard Manning
Fourth Official: Craig Guy
Player of the Match: Joanne Hooper
Photography: Matt Usher
Match Report: Matt Lemmon