Notts County Ladies Development’s big night out is promotion party

GOING UP! -- the club's senior first-team, who celebrated promotion.
GOING UP! -- the club's senior first-team, who celebrated promotion.

The leading women’s football club in the Dispatch district celebrated promotion for the first team and ever-strengthening links with Notts County at their annual presentation night.

Notts County Ladies Development (formerly Linby Ladies) are now a feeder club for The Magpies’ main operation, which boasts a side in the FA Women’s Super League (WSL).

A measure of how good County are is that, on the opening day of the WSL season last month, they drew 1-1 with Arsenal, who won the televised Women’s FA Cup final on Sunday.

So the Linby-based development club were delighted to welcome two of The Magpies’ star defenders, Laura-Jane O’Neill and Eleanor Clarke, as the VIP guests for their big event last Friday, which was held at the John Godber Centre in Hucknall.

O’Neill and Clarke presented the awards and also signed autographs on a night when pride of place went to the development club’s senior first team, who now play at Coronation Park, home of Eastwood Town FC.

In their second season in Division One North of the East Midlands Women’s League, they finished second to gain promotion to the Premier Division for next term.

They boasted the best goal-difference (plus-72) in the whole league and also the leading scorer in striker Courtney Walters, whose tally of 38 goals helped her win a place in the WSL Notts County Reserves team.

Walters took the club’s top goalscorer award, while another first-team player, Anna Horton, was awarded the club’s Jubilee Cup for her efforts and commitment, not only on the pitch but also in helping with coaching and refereeing. Horton refereed most of the younger teams’ home games.

The development club fielded four other sides during the 21012/13 season, with the senior reserves finishing third in the Notts Girls and Ladies League and also reaching the finals of the league cup and league plate.

Their success was remarkable considering numerous injuries and players being called up for first-team duities. In a tough season, they showed terrific team-spirit, which reflected well on long-serving coaches Colin and Jennifer Brooks.

The Brookses, who have now stepped down after 11 years, received gifts, tributes and thanks for all they have done for the club.

The newly-formed under-16s were awarded the JB Team Of The Year honour, as voted by the club’s managers.

This followed a maiden season in which they gelled very quickly and finished third in Division One of the Notts Girls and Ladies League. They also reached the final of the league cup and the semi-finals of the Notts FA County Shield.

What’s more, the under-16s also shone in the sport of futsal (an indoor version of five-a-side football), winning the regional championship and qualifying for this month’s national finals in Birmingham.

The development club’s other two teams, the under-11s and under-nines, improved tremendously as the season progressed.

In an uncertain start, the 11s were without a manager and did not have enough players. But once first-team player Robyn Henton took them on, they grew in strength and numbers.

Henton was presented with the Millennium Shield award in recognition of her hard work, while Rebecca Needham received the Peter Shilton Goalkeeper Award.

The under-nines (mini-Pies) developed their skills, positioning and understanding of the game -- thanks largely to the commitment of manager Paul Street, who won the Chairman’s Award. One of their players, Tia Wheelhouse, was second top scorer for the club with 29 goals.

All the other individual award winners were --

SENIOR FIRST-TEAM -- sportswoman Emma Bradshaw, most improved player Anna Horton, coaches’ player of the year Courtney Walters, managers’ player of the year Robyn Henton, players’ player of the year April Bingham.

SENIOR RESERVES -- sportswoman Cath Eyley, most improved player Rhiannon Middleton, coaches’ player of the year Ellie Marriott, managers’ player of the year Jessie Knott, players’ player of the year Katrina Bloomer.

UNDER-16S -- sportswoman Megan Weston, most improved player Abbie Truman, coaches’ player of the year Amy Townsend, managers’ player of the year Sylvie Aske, players’ player of the year Faye Wheatley.

UNDER-11S -- sportswoman Rebecca Needham, most improved player Alicia Sandin James, coaches’ player of the year Rosie Bradley, managers’ player of the year Sophie Wright, players’ player of the year Ellie Barrow.

UNDER-NINES -- sportswoman Libbi Hodkinson, most improved player Dulcie Rhodes, coaches’ player of the year Grace McGee, managers’ player of the year Isla Newbury, players’ player of the year Millie Morley.

Chairman Andrew Eastwood also reported that the club had been successful with fundraising off the field, organising their own Sport Relief Miles event, which was attended by two more WSL Notts County stars, Rachel Corsie and Caitlin Friend. A total of £648 was raised in sponsorship.

The club are now busy recruiting players for all their teams. They are holding an open training session at the National Academy on Annesley Road, Hucknall next Wednesday evening.

Eastwood says: “We train all year round on Wednesdays from 6 pm to 8 pm at National, and our seniors and under-16s also hold futsal sessions at the Mellish Sports Centre in Bulwell every Tuesday from 6.30 pm to 8 pm.

“All our coaches are FA-qualified, and we are committed to the development of our players.”