Posted: 27.03.20 at 18:45 by Asif Burhan
Ipswich Town women's management and players have reacted with dismay after learning their epic efforts this season will be wiped from the record.
With the increasing uncertainty over whether organised sport can resume in the foreseeable future, the Football Association took the unprecedented step of cancelling the season for all women's football leagues below the top two divisions.
Looking back over the aborted campaign, which saw Towns women top the league, reaching the fifth round of FA Cup, beating Huddersfield Town on the way, before crashing out to Manchester City, February's FA Women's National League manager of the month, Joe Sheehan remained full of pride for what his players achieved.
"We had a brilliant cup run, a solid home record and we've scored a lot of goals," said Sheehan. "We've set records and made history for the club so that is something we will want to take forward and I'm confident we can do so".
Centre-forward Natasha Henry, whose 25 goals this season will now be wiped from the record, tweeted "No words" with a picture of a broken heart. Their official supporters group "The Tractor Girls on Tour" said "this is not the way we wanted our season to end, but this is the only way the girls were going to be stopped from winning the league! They are an absolute credit to this football club and should be proud of what they have achieved this season".
Ipswich's historic run to the FA Cup Women's fifth round brought national attention to the team and only three weeks ago six of the side represented England's u18 Young Lionesses.
For Sheehan, keeping his talented young squad together into next season may prove a challenge.
He said: "We're back to square one so the starting point is to see who we can keep hold of and give it another go next year. It's a balancing act because we want to make decisions for the benefit of the team and the football club but the individuals as well.
"If there are opportunities for some of our players to move on then it will be tough but of course we will support them all we can".
In a statement, the FA said "The FA and the leagues within tiers three to seven have reached a consensus to bring the season to an immediate end and all results will be expunged. This will mean no promotion or relegation of clubs between tiers three to seven".
The news was a devastating blow to Ipswich Town Women's team who are top of the fourth tier and seemed set for promotion from the FA Women's National League South-East Division with almost two-thirds of the season played.
The FA explained: "Today’s steps take into account the financial impact during this uncertain period, whilst considering the fairest method on how the sporting outcomes for the season will be decided with the integrity of the leagues in mind".
Speaking on the Ipswich Town website, Sheehan admitted "We're gutted but not surprised to be honest. I can see why they've made the decision they have.
"For us it's tough because we were on track to achieve what we wanted to do this season and that was to get promoted. But no matter the decision they had made I'm sure certain teams would have been unhappy about it."
Although top of their league for the majority of the season, not all of the teams had played an equal amount of matches at the point that the season was suspended.
Fourth-placed Billericay Town are six points behind Ipswich Town with two matches in hand over The Tractor Girls – not that it matters any more.