The Poole Town Ladies squad featuring both the first and reserve teams players after the final whistle - Photos by: Andy Orman

It was seemingly a game Poole Town Ladies couldn’t lose on Tuesday evening, as the Dorset CFA Women's Cup came down to an all-Poole affair.

Poole have been dominant in this tournament, racking up four titles on the bounce but this was the first time their reserves had joined them in the final of the competition.

There was a jovial atmosphere, with predictable jokes being exchanged between the healthy crowd that filled the main stand of Hamworthy United’s County Ground.

An early chance fell for the firsts in the opening two minutes, as Samantha Gubb fired an early shot in hopes of catching Reserves’ ‘keeper Lottie Napier off guard. It was a relatively comfortable save for Napier, but less than a minute later she was forced into a full-stretch save.

Gubb’s flick on fell for Rebecca Miles, who had time and space to pick out a corner – but Napier pulled off a fine save to keep the scores level.

Unfortunately for the shotstopper, the ensuing corner would lead to the opener. After the Reserves failed to clear the initial ball, Emma Acott smashed home from less than six yards, leaving Napier without a chance.

Acott thought she had another opportunity to double her tally, but whilst she thought she had beaten the offside trap by mere millimetres, the linesman disagreed and ruled for a free-kick. This was just one of the several indicators that the crowd were in for an entertaining game.

Just nine minutes in and the firsts had doubled their advantage – this time Miles made no mistake when she was given a pocket of space to fire past Napier from inside the box. The scoreline reflected the firsts’ dominance, but the reserves hadn’t been completely overwhelmed.

Some fancy footwork by Katie Paul saw her bypass a defender, but her long range drive was comfortably held by Napier.

Rebecca Yeo produced the finest finish of the game (at that point) when she rifled her effort into the top left of Napier’s goal, but unfortunately for the winger, she had strayed offside to receive the ball first.

Reminders of the camaraderie of the two squads were frequent, and when a reserve player fell down with injury, she was surrounded by her comrades on both teams.

The reserves weren’t completely out of the game and had a few forays forward, but their attacks failed to yield any goals as they searched for a way back into the game.

Fed through by a smart header by Gubb, Acott finally had another chance to double her personal tally but dragged her shot wide after beating the offside trap. Playing the role of provider throughout, Gubb rarely had chances of her own – but she drew a fine save from Napier from an acute angle after around 25 minutes.

Both sides were capable of some fluid passing play, and after a reserve attack was broken up after a fine tackle by Faye Hawkins, it gave the first a chance to break away and showcase their link-up play.

Just prior to the half hour mark, the First team would have their third goal – a short corner routine unlocking the reserves’ defence, and allowing Miles to grab a second goal with an emphatic finish from a tight angle.

Rebecca Miles and Samantha Gubb celebrate one of the goals they contributed.

Less than a minute later Miles would grab her hat-trick. 

Latching onto a through ball, she rounded Napier in the Reserves’ goal, allowing her an empty net, a chance she calmly took to make it 4-0.

Almost immediately after the restart the Firsts almost made it three goals in 90 seconds, but Acott fluffed her lines when one-on-one with Napier. 

The onslaught did not finish there as Gubb had a chance shortly after, but her powerful effort was well stopped by Napier, who was extremely busy throughout the night.

Gubb was involved in the first team’s fifth goal as she teed up Yeo for an easy tap-in. All the winger had to do was poke the ball past Napier and end the game as contest with only 33 minutes on the clock.

The midfielder would finally get her name on the scoresheet when she was sent through on goal, and despite having a player in support, Gubb elected to place her shot past Napier and make it four goals in five minutes.

The first team made it seven four minutes before half time, displaying a textbook counter. With the reserves denied at the one end, a rapid attack saw Miles turn provider, placing a perfect cross into the path of Gubb, who smacked the ball home to grab her brace.

Just a minute later the finest goal of the game came about after a bit of ingenuity in the middle of the park. Yeo spotted Napier off her line, and decided to try her luck from around 25 yards out. She was successful in floating the ball over the stranded keeper and into the back of the net to make it 8-0.

Despite the fact the game seemed over and the fact the two teams played for the same clubs, there was nothing held back as tackles came flying in. Whilst they weren’t malicious by any means, they highlighted the effort and determination of both teams.

A fine last-ditch tackle by Christina Smith denied Miles a run onto goal, showcasing the competitiveness of the cup final.

Another hat-trick was in the offing for the firsts, with Gubb achieving just that when she bagged the second treble of the game as she went one-on-one with Napier. She stood her ground and placed the ball into the back of the net to make it a first half scoreline of 9-0 as referee Linda Lindskog blew for the break. 

It took ten minutes for the second half to get going, as the Reserves restricted the firsts in the early stages. Natasha Haysom’s delivery from a free-kick saw captain Shelly Towers smash an effort towards Napier, who produced a fine double save to first hook the ball off the line, and then block the follow up.

However, it was the third rebound that fell for substitute Sasha Paynter who finished with aplomb to send her side into double figures. The striker was denied a few moments later by a fine tackle by Christina Smith, which led to a Reserve counter. A dipping effort from Hannah Gould fell the wrong side of first team goalkeeper Samantha Chrippes’ post, after a fine run.

Emma Acott was still chasing her second goal, and must have thought her mazy run would produce another chance to convert. After being released by some smart passing, it was another clever bit of play from Beth Maidment to deny the attacker, as she charged back to prevent Acott from firing a shot off.

Whilst the game remained a hotly-contested final, goalmouth action rarely amounted to more than blocked shots at either end. 

Eight minutes from the end Sasha Paynter grabbed her second goal of the game after Gubb had teed her up from the wing, leaving the striker with a relatively simple finish.

Gubb and Paynter combined again, this time the latter playing in the former. 

Gubb fired off a shot powerful enough to force Napier into spilling the ball, but the ‘keeper did well to recover and prevent Paynter a hat-trick from the rebound.

It seemed the game had been jump-started back to life as Gubb then rattled the crossbar with a curling effort just inside the box. 

Amy Thomson seemed destined to get her name on the team-sheet when she was released into a one-on-one situation, but she could only fire straight at Napier. 

The rebound fell for Paynter, who let a speculative effort fly just wide of the post.

Sasha Paynter wheeling off to celebrate her second goal

That was the end of any real action as the game naturally fizzled out, leading to the post-match ceremony. The large crowd assembled around to rightfully applaud both sides’ efforts.

Both of the management duo spoke to South Coast after the game, with Josh Jones-Keen stating: “I think we approached it how we approach all our games, for both the firsts and the Dorset (reserves) sides. I think you have to, because with all respect to the girls, the reserve side play in the same division as everyone else in the cup, so it’s the same preparation.”

“There’s extra motivation for the reserves because there are players in that side who have played for our first team, and others who will try to in the future. In that respect, it is the same as every other game – both sides want to go out and win.”

Dorset CFA Women's Cup champions Poole Town Ladies First

“After going far in the FA Cup, we fell just short of the first round, we progressed quite well in the other cups as well. It wasn’t quite as far as we’d have liked, and whilst it sounds cliched, we will look for next season to be even better than this one.”

His fellow manager, Alvin Gunputh, shared his positivity in terms of the future for the Ladies, which looks very bright.

Gunputh and Jones-Keen guided the Dolphins to the Premier Division of the South West Women’s Football League, after just one season in the league’s bottom tier. With sides representing big clubs in Yeovil and Torquay, Poole have acquitted themselves very well, positioning themselves for a final tilt at a top three finish.

“I think this season was meant to be all about giving ourselves a good competitive chance in this division and to stay in the league, but I feel we surprised ourselves by how well we’ve adapted to the fitness levels and physicality of the league."

“It’s put us in a good stead for next year, as we’ve grown stronger as players, as a club we’ve grown our reputation. Hopefully, we’ll be able to build the squad even stronger and even bigger."

Currently plying their trade in the 5th tier, the Ladies side technically play at a higher level than their male counterparts – but no one involved at the club wants to stop now. With a top four finish looking likely this season, it might not be too long until the Ladies are playing even higher in Women’s pyramid.

“The aim next year is to go for promotion in an ideal world, but just to improve on our league position each year would be fantastic.”

“With a growing reputation, the financial side of things grow as well,” Jones-Keen said. “If you look at training now, you’ve consistently got 25 people turning up. We’re now training two times a week, and we’re still getting new enquiries all the time. “

“That helps us grow, especially on the financial side as well. Obviously, we travel, which causes petrol money, as well as linesmen and referees – but I think our stature is improving every year. I think that shows in terms of the number of people turning up and all the new enquiries. As far as we’re concerned, it’s more the merrier. We just want to keep on building.”

First Team Managers Alvin Gunputh (Foreground) and Josh Jones-Keen (Background)

“The next step up for us would be the equivalent of the Football League in the Women’s game. There’s nothing about our status that would impact what league we are in.” stated Gunputh, before being supported by his colleague.

“The thing about the women’s game is actually that semi-professionalism doesn’t kick in until way up the leagues,” began Jones-Keen. “There’s only a handful of pro players with contracts, so in terms of players, there is nothing withholding about what we can achieve as a club, and what we want to achieve as a club.”

“We’re very pleased and proud to be offering the highest standard of football in the county at the moment. We just want to continue this drive up the pyramid!” finished Gunputh.

19th April 2017 - Jack Tanner (words); Andy Orman (photos)