Above: Chelsea Page in action for Thetford Town against Wymondham Town in the Norfolk Women’s Cup recently. Photo: Hannah Parnell.
Thetford Town defender Rachel Lynch and striker Chelsea Page spoke to Darrell Allen about their experiences at the club and a memorable 2021/22 campaign so far (22/2/22).
Rachel’s introduction to life at Thetford Town came about in rather unique circumstances as she explains. “I joined the club in October 2020. I came to watch a game against Mulbarton, but manager David Skipp told me to bring my boots just in case. Low and behold I ended up playing the entire match after two years out of football.
“My role has gone from someone who wanted to be casually involved in football to a member of the team who is highly committed and gets involved with all the doings of the club.”
Chelsea could also remember her debut vividly: “I’ve been playing for Thetford Town for six months now. I joined in the summertime just before the season started and, although I’m new to the team I have fitted right in and get along with all the girls so well.
“I still remember my debut game. Well, the first game I played with the girls was just a friendly and I scored which I was chuffed about but my first game of the season was against Long Stratton away and we won 2-1 and I feel I played really well that match and although I’ve never played in the Norfolk League (only Suffolk), the team we played were very good but me and the girls were just that much better and as a team, we got the three points.”
The pair then discussed the league restructure at the start of the season which saw Thetford go into Division One. Rachel said this was met with mixed emotions. “We were all equally excited and nervous. Being placed in Division One was a huge challenge, but a compliment at the same time.
“We had something to prove, for ourselves and the other teams within the league, and we have done a good job doing it so far.”
Chelsea said the team has embraced the challenge. “We were pleased to be seen as a good team who deserve to be in Division One and so far with the season it is clear we deserve to be here and we are as good if not better than a lot of teams in this division.
“That being said we knew with being in this league it wasn’t going to be easy and yes we had tough games but we come out on top in the end, although we are in a higher division, I feel it was good for us because we are constantly being tested by harder teams which is beneficial for us.”
Asked whether she would class this season as being a positive experience so far, Chelsea felt so. “Yes. This season so far has been a huge success for me and the girls and I’m so happy to be playing for this team and can’t wait for the rest of the season.”
Rachel on the other hand, sees room for further growth. “To date, yes. There can still be an improvement within our current squad and with a lot of new faces joining.
“I think our expectations were pretty low if I’m honest, we have worked hard and surprised ourselves with a number of performances. I don’t want to jinx it and say our expectations have been exceeded, that is something to talk about at the end of this season.”
Discussions then moved to the recent Norfolk Women’s Cup tie with step five league leaders Wymondham Town which Thetford lost 6-1 but held the visitors for 55 minutes.
Chelsea scored the Thetford goal and was delighted by how the game went. “This match was one of the toughest matches I have played. It was no secret that Wymondham are a physically stronger team than us. I’m so proud of us as a team and with scoring the only goal for our team it was a great feeling I won’t forget it. The match was a great team effort.
“Besides the goal, we worked so hard through the game, especially the first 55 minutes where we played incredibly and I’m proud of each one of us, and as long as we play this way for the rest of our games we will be just fine.”
Rachel also enjoyed the occasion. “Playing against them was a pleasure, they are a great group of very talented girls. Our performance was class for the first 55 minutes of the game. We played as a team and everything went exactly how we wanted. Unfortunately, the tail end of the game came down to experience and fitness.”
The pair then highlighted who they believe have been some of the key players in the team this season. Chelsea was quick to acknowledge Melissa Boulton.
“We have all played great this season and can’t fault anyone. I would personally say Mel has had a great season so far with playing in the middle or on the wing. She always produces great play for the team and her work effort is outstanding. I enjoy playing alongside her.”
Rachel’s vote went to 16-year-old talent Abbie Corbyn. “For me it’s ‘Botti’ amid the fact she is only 16, she is a class player. Her work rate is high, along with her ability on and off of the ball. As well as her, Sausha Levy-Twomey captains the team well, a natural leader who can read the game exceptionally well, meaning she is always in the right place at the right time ready for one of her class goal-line clearances.”
Reflecting in a bit more detail on this season’s league campaign, Rachel identified a favourite goal of the season. “Speaking selfishly, my run from more than halfway to slot home the final goal in our 6-1 win against Stalham was pretty memorable! other than that, our two wins against Long Stratton have definitely stood out.”
Chelsea’s top moment also came in that win against Stalham. “I would say my favourite moment was the goal I scored against Stalham where we won 6-1. I scored a header which in my opinion was the result of a brilliant cross from near the corner flag. It went straight over the keeper’s head and I ran onto it and put it in the back of the net. It was one of my favourite moments because my Mum and Grandad were there and, for the first time my girlfriend came watch my match and I scored so very happy with that game and way I played.”
Both Chelsea and Rachel were also quick to acknowledge the wonderful work of the coaching team David Skipp and Stuart Terry. “These two are great managers and coaches and they support us as a team and without them, we wouldn’t be where we are so we are glad to have them on the side of pitch,” Chelsea said.
That was followed up by this ringing endorsement from Rachel. “I don’t think that there are many words to explain how much Skipp and Stuart do for our club. They give up a ridiculous amount of their time to ensure that everything is prepared and sorted for our training sessions and games. Skipp goes above and beyond to plan training whilst Stuart works hard behind the scenes organizing sponsors and deals with campaigns like #HerGameToo as well as working with groups like The Daisy Foundation.
“I have known Skipp for 20 years now and he hasn’t changed a bit, he is such a committed coach and really wants the best for his players… even if he is really moody sometimes.”
Both girls were quick to show their support for the Her Game Too Partnership, as Rachel explained. “Her Game Too is a movement we are all behind, it promotes equality within the sport. Being the first club in Norfolk to have such a partnership is a great honour and I know that all members of the team are excited about this partnership”
Chelsea is equally as supportive. “I think this is a great partnership to have and their cause is great and needs to be spoken about more. People should get involved so I’m very happy to have their name associated with Thetford Town Ladies.”
The pair concluded by outlining their targets for the rest of the season. “Mine are to just make it through the rest of the season, I am carrying a few injuries at the moment, but don’t want to miss out as we are performing so well as a team. As a team I think that our targets should be to carry on as we are, improving every single game and building our squad,” revealed Rachel.
Chelsea was also aiming high. “Personally, I want to keep helping the team out and scoring goals as a striker that’s your aim. As a team, to just keep getting the three points we deserve and hopefully finish at the top end of the table. Maybe even first, but we are new together as a team and it will take time to get it all right.”