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Women's Football News
Crystal Palace have matters in their hands in the South East Division One title race and the league leaders moved themselves closer to the title on Sunday with a 9-0 victory over Lowestoft Town.
We talked to Palace defender Lexie Spokes, who praised the team's performance in beating Lowestoft but insisted that the team's feet are on the ground as they enter the closing stages of the season:
WSS: How well did the team play on Sunday when beating Lowestoft Town?
LS: The team performed really well. We had a slightly slow start in the first 10 minutes or so, but we settled when we scored the first goal. Our passing grew from there and we begin to really dominate, especially on the wings. The manager was happy at half time, but he knew we could perform at a higher level so asked us to step up our passing, emphasising not to force attacks when a simple ball is on offer. It was effective, and the second half performance featured some brilliant use of wings to create goal scoring opportunities, something we had been improving in training.
WSS: Gemma Bryan had a great day in front of goal, how good an addition to the squad has she been this season?
LS: Gemma has been incredible all season - she's a really talented player and sets a great example to younger players in the squad, both on the pitch and at training. Her goals have been invaluable, her strike partnerships and link up play with Nicha and Shakes had made our attack even more deadly this year.
WSS: MK Dons still have a mathematical chance but do you think realistically it is now a two horse race (with Gillingham)?
LS: Although there are only six games left, the manager has continued to accentuate the point that we need to focus on our own team performance - we take each game as it comes. We believe that if we give 100% every week and put points on the board, then the pressure will fall onto the teams around us. We're aware of our opponents' league positions, and we know everybody is challenging for that promotion spot. They are a good side, but we choose not to focus on who is alongside us in the promotion challenge, moreover how well we perform each week as we aim for the title.
WSS: This week you play Denham who are never easy opponents, does each game take on extra importance now?
LS: I think the games have been of equal importance throughout the season, as three points is crucial regardless of when the game is played. Having said that, there are certainly more people taking notice of the next few games, naturally, as the season comes to an end and places are decided, that can add some pressure. It's a critical time of the season for sure. Our mentality has remained the same throughout the season though, so we treat each game as if it's a season decider regardless of opponent. I feel the mentality has prepared us to deal with this pressure, so we're definitely ready for the remaining six games and the challenges they'll bring.
WSS: Of your six remaining games, would you say the ones against MK Dons and Cambridge will be the key ones?
LS: Yes, they are two of strongest teams in our last few games. Having dropped two points with a draw away at Cambridge, we feel as though we need to improve on our last performance and get the win if we are to add pressure to the promotion charge. MK Dons have had great seasons and have some key players that could really test us, so we'll need to be at the top of our games if we want maximum points from the two matches.
WSS: You were close to winning the league last season, will the experience of that near miss help the team this time around?
LS: Definitely. Most members of the team experienced last year's disappointment, so they feel as though they have a point to prove this season - we have experienced the pressure of a close promotion battle too, which will give us an advantage in the next few games. It's been a year-long effort by the players and the coaching staff since that disappointment, we've developed immensely since then, and we feel ready both physically and mentally for final push towards that promotion place.
WSS: What would it mean to your club if you can clinch the title and reach the top flight?
LS: If we were to succeed, it would mean everything to the players and coaching staff, who have put in 100% effort every week since the beginning of pre-season. Our squad and staff have worked tirelessly in all weather conditions, giving up time and making huge efforts to improve our performance. The reward would not just be for the players, but the volunteers, development squads and coaches who devote so much of their energy to improve the club and create the brilliant reputation that Crystal Palace Ladies has. It would also increase the profile of the club hugely, we'd gain more media exposure which would help us inspire more young women and girls to have an opportunity to play and enjoy the beautiful game.
Our thanks to Lexie!
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