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Women's Team manager Luke Podmore "looking forward" to second successive County Cup final

Sunday’s superb 9-2 win on the road at Crewe Alexandra LFC Development Squad was the first of four games for Luke Podmore’s FC United Women, in the space of seven days. The Reds went into the break at 1-1 but put on arguably their best showing of the season in the second half to win the game 9-2. Podmore believes that the half time team talk translated onto the pitch, in the second half, to break down a resilient Crewe side.

"Half time was a matter of reconfirming our playing philosophy, our style, our patience, our values and making sure that we were positive with regards to the second half. I have to give full credit to the players. They took it on board from the first minute of the half and we managed to score the first [goal] almost immediately and then that showed us the way to do it and the way to go forward from there. We kept to that and played brilliantly to add another seven in the second half, which was just phenomenal. It was all about intensifying that belief and bringing to the forefront of our minds what we do best".

Striker Jess Battle scored five of United’s nine goals on the day and just a week earlier became the fastest to 50 FCUMW goals in the 6-1 win at Warrington Wolverines. Battle was Podmore’s first signing after taking over the reigns of the team and has been overjoyed to see her succeed at United since buying into his system, a little over 15 months ago. "Jess [Battle] is a fantastic person as well as a fantastic player on the pitch. Every week her work rate and commitment epitomizes everything that we are trying to do at FC United and so the record speaks for itself. It’s really nice to know that a player believes in you and will believe in what you are trying to achieve and the project that we have got going on here. Jess has thrown herself into that and is getting the rewards from that now. If you’ve got Jess Battle in the team, you’ve got a fantastic chance at winning football games".

Podmore is as delighted with his first signing as with his most recent ones too. In the last few months, he has been able to recruit players such as Jennifer Lomax, Chelsea Flanagan and Alice Forshaw who have added extra quality and depth to his already strong side. The manager believes that all three add their own qualities to the overall team setup. "Jen [Lomax] is a great player to have in and around the squad. She’s got a great attitude and will give her all no matter how long she is on the pitch. Jen’s got a great mind on her, can read situations really well and can give us that more experienced view on the game which is vital".

"I’ve worked with Alice [Forshaw] before in my time at Preston North End WFC. Alice is a wonderful player, is really committed and a dedicated footballer. Like with all of my signings, she’s a great person and has fit in perfectly so far. We have been unfortunate losing players like Anya [Donelan] to a last-minute US scholarship at the beginning of the season so we have been one short on the left-hand side for a while. It’s taken some time to find the right person but we feel that we have definitely found the right one in Alice", Podmore added.

Another player that he has worked with previously is Chelsea Flanagan. The striker scored two goals in a Player of the Match performance in last night’s 4-1 win at Altrincham FC Ladies and Podmore believes that Flanagan adds another level of quality to the side. "Chelsea [Flanagan] is another great number to have in and around the squad. She’s a goal machine and will be another great addition in terms of making an impact in games and taking that game away from the opposition when we need to".

As mentioned earlier, Flanagan’s latest goal-scoring showing came in last night’s league win over Altrincham FC Ladies. Podmore insists that last night’s win was no more than the Reds deserved. "It was a fantastic ground-out result from the team. We made it a little bit tighter than it should have been, we dominated the game from start to finish but to be fair the conditions were difficult and it took us a while to get that under control. It was a vital win, we have four or five games left now to really turn the screw and seal this league title. On paper, other teams may have thought that Altrincham would be one of the games that we struggled with, but we’ve come through it and scored four goals on a difficult night so I’m over the moon for the players as they deserve it, they put all the hard work in and bust a gut to get there - it was no more than they deserved".

One standout positive shown by Podmore’s side in the last week or so has been their resilience and character to strike back in adversity. The Reds have scored in both of the last two games, just three minutes after going into a points-dropping situation and Podmore admires that mentality that has built up in the dressing room. "This is probably one of the most resilient groups I’ve ever worked with. We have a tendency to want to make a difference and respond well. It’s about getting across to the players that you have to be resilient and use the game that is in-front of you. When we do that as a team and as a unit, that’s the response we can create. Because we have done it time and time again now, we know that if it happens to us in the future, we can rely on this and drive forward, be patient and hopefully continue to get the results that we need".

With the Altrincham fixture done and dusted, the Reds attention now fully turns to tomorrow night’s Manchester FA Women’s Cup final at Brookburn Road. Having won the competition last season, beating City of Manchester Ladies 5-1, United face Premier division side Manchester Stingers in this year’s final. Podmore admits that despite his excitement, himself and the players understand that they will have to work hard if they want to retain the cup won at the closing stages of last season.

"We’re really looking forward to the cup final. Me personally, it’s a special one as it is the first cup we won together last year. We have another chance to win it again tomorrow night which will be a fantastic achievement for the players and for the club. It’s set up to be a great cup final between two competitive sides. Although we are playing a team from a higher league, we expect to be competitive and give it a real good go and have a real good chance of winning it, back-to-back. If we can make it a special night again I’ll be absolutely over the moon. I’m hoping that will then be the catalyst to try and get the league title sewn up and drive us into another big cup game against CMB on the 22nd [April]. So winning it will really set us up nicely and go a long way to impacting on the conclusion of our season. We’ll be doing everything we can to retain the cup and we’re just looking forward to the occasion - I’m sure it will be a great night for both teams and everyone involved".

In their efforts to retain the trophy for the first time in the team’s history, the Reds’ will be keen not to become complacent at any point. Podmore insists that wanting it more will be key to his side’s chances of back-to-back success on the night. "There’s no real way that you can prepare, in particular, for cup finals, there is just too many variables in a final. But certainly the occasion and reaching those finals is obviously really beneficial to us as a squad as it’s experience of getting to the latter stages of a competition. If we consistently do that, it makes it more familiar to us in terms of the occasion and the environment around us. On the night, I put it down to who wants to win it more, who’s prepared to put their bodies on the line and I believe that we have set up a mentality this season that will enable us to do that. It will of course be a different experience from last time, we’re different, the opponents are different and it will be really good, for me as a manager, to see what we’ve got and to ultimately see where we are as a team".

You can see Luke Podmore and his Reds’ take on Manchester Stingers WFC in this year’s Manchester FA Women’s Cup final, tomorrow night at Brookburn Road (M21 8FE) - 7.30pm KO.

We hope to see you there!

By Mikey Partington

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First Posted ~ 21:19 Thu 12 Apr 2018
News ID ~ 7846
Last Updated ~ 21:19 Thu 12 Apr 2018