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Forest Green Rovers ended their long losing run on Sunday with a 1-1 draw against Plymouth Argyle in their bottom of the table clash in the Southern Division.
We talked to Forest Green midfielder Hannah Hale, who insisted that the result against Plymouth could have been better for her side and revealed that, if they can finish second from bottom, the reason why they will be backing Brighton & Hove Albion in the Championship play-off match:
WSS: All in all, were you satisfied with a draw in such a vital game on Sunday?
HH: The result against Plymouth was very disappointing for us as, having played against a very strong wind in the first half and getting to half time at 1-1, we should have pushed on for a win after the break. We played some good football but could not finish anything off. That, coupled with the fact we did not get a couple of penalties awarded made it a very frustrating day!
WSS: Were there a lot of nerves during the game, especially late on?
HH: The team wasn't nervous before the game as, having played Plymouth earlier this season at home, and also from playing them in the old South West Combination days, we knew most of the players, and their strengths and weaknesses. We also had new faces playing due to injuries, and they were more excited rather than nervous!
WSS: How tough has it been making the step up to the Southern Division this season?
HH: The Southern Division is obviously a big jump with some big names in the league. Having not played too much of the season myself, I've only faced a handful of teams but they've all been well organised and physically fit sides, which is something you'd expect. The pace of the game between the divisions was apparent from the opener at Brighton and I think that these things can be the small margin between getting a result at this level for teams coming into the league.
WSS: This week you make the trip to Portsmouth, do you think a good finish to the season is important?
HH: A strong finish is always important, regardless of your position in the table. Finishing on a high is always going to be good for confidence when preparing for pre-season, and attracting new players to the club, so you can start strong again. The injuries we have currently got does not help with this, but it is an opportunity for different players to step up and make their mark.
WSS: As long as you can finish where you are now, presumably you will all become Brighton supporters for the play-off game?
HH: Ha Ha!! Of course we will if it means we can remain in the Southern Division, as we can then be much more prepared for the next season than we were for this one, so we will be backing Brighton all the way! They are the best team we have faced this season in terms of playing strength, management and behind the scenes set up, so hopefully they can get a win in the play-off game and promotion to the WSL2, where I think they would acquit themselves very well.
WSS: Whatever happens, this season will mark the end of an era at Forest Green because we gather three of the club's stalwarts are retiring?
HH: All three players - Kirsty Richardson, Jodie Shepherd and Charlotte King - have been at the club for a long time and have been the spine of the team through the centre, providing a lot of quality with it. Two are retiring (Ricco and Kinger), and Shep does not drive, and so is probably joining Larkhall Athletic, as some of her close friends play there already. With them leaving, it'll be a big change as they're big characters who have helped achieve so much during their time with the club, and have been fundamental in driving the club forward on the playing side. A positive for current youth and new players though is that it opens up an exciting opportunity to contest for these positions in the coming season.
WSS: Do you think that it is particularly important that the club retains its status for next season?
HH: Most definitely...it is important for the club to keep as high a profile as possible to continue to attract new players and further investment to the club. Our current sponsors have been most supportive, and with the new stadium plans now well advanced, it is important that the club continues to expand both on and off the pitch. The club and players are well aware of the club's status in the South West region, and because the profile of ladies and girls football is perhaps not as strong as in the larger urban areas around the country, it is even more important to do everything they can to help not just themselves, but all clubs and potential players in the area to fulfil their aspirations.
Our thanks to Hannah!
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