Katy Sandalls: Portman Road date gives us the opportunity to back women’s football in Suffolk

Ipswich Town Ladies celebrate their fourth County Cup win last year Picture: ROSS HALLS

Ipswich Town Ladies celebrate their fourth County Cup win last year Picture: ROSS HALLS - Credit: Archant

In her latest column Katy Sandalls discusses the benefits of bringing the Suffolk’s Women’s County Cup Final home to Portman Road – and why that’s important for local football.

In this column I’ve often spoken about the importance of showing your support for our local teams – getting out there and showing that Suffolk is backing its female footballing talent.

Sometimes this isn’t always possible: ground accessibility and timings are not always easy to match up in women’s football.

As was seen this past weekend when a number of clubs up around the country were forced to reschedule fixtures because of the weather.

However, news this week came from the Suffolk FA who confirmed that the women’s county cup final would join several other local cup finals at Portman Road this year.

MORE: Portman Road to stage six Suffolk county cup finals

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It’s three years since the women’s cup final was held at the home of the Tractor Boys, with previous finals taking place at grounds including Colchester United’s Community Stadium.

In terms of distance and accessibility a Tuesday night in Ipswich isn’t a bad option for fans. Yes it’s a school/work night and that will prove a problem for some but it’s also a central venue which can be accessed easily by public transport.

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This means that football fans will have a real chance to see the best women’s football that Suffolk has to offer and that’s what is key.

Such exposure has the potential to inspire youngsters and increase support for these clubs, many of whom have only spent a handful of seasons in the local leagues.

There can’t be anything more disheartening than giving everything you’ve got in a game only to find there’s no-one there to support you.

For many of these players the final itself will provide an opportunity to play in world-class facilities for the day and experience something exciting which they may never be in a position to do again.

Furthermore there’s a symbolism to having the final back at Portman Road: it’s arguably the centre of football in Suffolk and to have women’s football played there is important.

It shows that it is taken seriously and considered in the same regard as other men’s cups which is all the more important when you consider that the concept of a Suffolk-only women’s football cup is not even 10 years old.

Hopefully this is a theme that continues in future and that more investment comes into the local women’s game.

Finally and perhaps the most obvious thing to say is that the final will actually take place in Suffolk rather than Essex. No offence meant to Colchester United – but it does seem odd that the Suffolk women’s county cup final had been taking place in Essex!

The cup final will take place on Tuesday, May 7 with quarter-final fixtures set to take place this month.

Do make sure you get out and support the final eight teams left in the prestigious competition: Ipswich Town Women, Brantham Athletic, Woodbridge Town Ladies, Haverhill Rovers Ladies, Coplestonians Ladies, AFC Sudbury Ladies, Needham Market F.C. Women and East Bergholt United Women.

Best of luck to all of them and if you can’t make one of those fixtures then do consider heading out for the women’s cup final for what should be a great evening of local women’s football.

Let’s see if we can help inspire a record crowd this year!

- Outside of Suffolk the draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup took place on Monday with Chelsea v Arsenal the juiciest of the fixtures as it replicates last year’s final.

Both of the teams are in good form league wise, with Arsenal returning to top form this season thanks to superstars such as Dutch international Vivianne Miedema.

Fitness will be key for Arsenal who have lost a lot of players to injury this season, including England vice captain Jordan Nobbs.

Chelsea will be looking to repeat the result from last year’s final which saw them beat the Gunners 3-1 in front of record crowds with superstars like Fran Kirby ready to make their mark once more.

Meanwhile high-flying Manchester United will play London Bees as they attempt to make their first FA Cup final while 2017 winners Manchester City take on Tottenham Hotspur.

With plenty more fixtures to be decided because of the weather it should be another exciting cup run and I’m looking forward to heading to Wembley in May.

Let me know if you are heading down there too: perhaps with family and friends or maybe with your local club!

Have you got a women’s football story to share? Get in touch! You can email me katy.sandalls@archant.co.uk or tweet me @katysandalls.

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