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Derby County have made an impressive start to the new campaign, following up two league wins with a victory over Steel City Wanderers in the Premier League Cup on Sunday.
We talked to Derby full back Hannah Ward, who told us that she is pleased with the team's performances so far and insists that a title challenge may not be beyond the team this season:
WSS: Congratulations on a good start to the season, do you feel that the results have reflected the games overall?
HW: Yes, I believe so. We had to fight during both games and work hard as a squad throughout to make sure we came out with the results and it was great to also come away with two clean sheets. I think our quality of football shone through which is why we have come away with maximum points from both games and were able to keep our momentum from pre-season.
WSS: That was a good win in the cup on Sunday, do you see a cup run as being important for the club this season?
HW: Yes, I think we need to have a focus on the cup competitions this season because we haven't sustained a good cup run recently other than successfully retaining the County Cup. I believe progressing in the cup can only be beneficial to us as a squad because it will help the team build momentum and confidence; allow rotation within the squad so players can gain game time and also it allows us more opportunities to practice what we work on in training. Cup competitions also give you chances to travel or play against opposition that you wouldn't necessarily come up against normally and gain some other experiences.
WSS: What do you think results like this can do for the team's confidence?
HW: I think it's massive for everyone's confidence, we've worked very hard over pre-season and to be able to take it into the start of the season has been really good, we just need to make sure we keep working hard at training and keep improving and not become complacent because it is a long season. Our first game of the season against Bradford saw us have to battle hard during the second half and it was a good confidence boost because in previous seasons we haven't always shown that fight for the whole 90 minutes so to come out of that game with a win and a clean sheet was really important. Also, to beat your local rivals and play some very good football early on into the season builds confidence throughout the club.
WSS: The club has made a number of signings during the summer, how have they been settling in?
HW: I think they've settled in really well. As a team I feel as though we have welcomed them in but they have also made the process very easy, everything felt natural. I believe that because we've not only brought in good quality players to improve the squad but they are all nice people, it has been very easy for everyone to settle in and the squad to bond and create a good team morale.
WSS: What would you say would be a realistic target for Derby to aim at this season?
HW: I think with the quality that we had within our squad and then the signings we have added, I don't see why we can't push for top spot or at least finish within the top three. Our ambitions are to get into the Women's Super League as soon as possible and I think we are giving ourselves every chance with the quality of squad we are building and also the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
WSS: Is one of the most important aims to achieve more consistency with results this time around?
HW: I personally feel it is very important for the squad to become more consistent with not just the results aspect but also the quality of our performances throughout the season. Over the last few seasons we've seemed to have a mixture of spells where we are winning and then will suddenly go on a run of defeats which is very hard to come back from when you lose momentum and confidence. I think with the quality of players we have at our disposal and also the quality of our coaching staff that are leading us, we expect to be more consistent in the longevity and will be key to our seasons success.
WSS: Who do you think will be amongst the front runners in the league this season?
HW: Obviously, we would like to be in contention but I think Fylde Ladies and Blackburn Rovers will be competing with the quality of their squads and also the signings they have made over the summer to create a good depth in quality. I also think Middlesbrough have had a good start to the season and look as though they are going to be a tough side to go up against. I think our league is very competitive so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.
Our thanks to Hannah!
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