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West Bromwich Albion are starting to hit their best form after a difficult start to the season and a 4-1 victory over Fylde Ladies on Sunday took them into the Second Round of the SSE Women's FA Cup.
We talked to Albion defender Sophie Hull, who was pleased with the performance against Fylde whilst insisting that the reigning Northern Division Champions have a lot to play for over the next few months:
WSS: Well done on the win on Sunday, would you say that was one of your best results of the season so far?
SH: After the 7-0 win against Solihull, we took a lot of confidence into the Fylde game. Training has been really positive, Craig [Nicholls] is pushing more players into the box and as a result of working on pressing in training, we have scored early goals two weeks in a row. Against Fylde, that high intensity led to two goals within eight minutes and you can see the team has really gelled together.
WSS: That is four times you have met Fylde this season and you have won both cup ties, is it always a tough battle against them?
SH: Fylde are a very well organised club with a lot of talented players in their squad so you can never underestimate their desire to win games. In league fixtures we controlled play from start to finish but could not find the back of the net so I think we have been unlucky to have lost points against them, however with a full strength squad we got the result we deserved.
WSS: The Second Round draw has given you a home tie with Radcliffe Olympic, how much are you looking forward to that game?
SH: For many of the players, memories of last season's quarter final against Manchester City are used as inspiration amongst both returning and new players. For new players, it is motivation to share the achievement that our team mates experienced and to hear the applause as Trina Greaves hits the back of the net, rather than the bar against a WSL side. We will approach the Radcliffe game just like any other, we go out to win and to win convincingly.
WSS: The team is starting to show its best form after a tough start to the season, do you think it has taken a while to get the play-off match out of your systems?
SH: We did have tough start, a shortened pre-season and multiple injuries left key players unavailable for our opening games. For many of the players, understandably they will have felt disappointed after such a fantastic 2015-16 season, but getting to the play-offs and beating Coventry to win the County Cup inspires them to go beyond their previous achievements.
WSS: How big a boost has it been to have Abi Cottam back in the team in recent weeks?
SH: Abi brings a lot of confidence to the team, both her and Leigh Dugmore scored 20 goals last season. With Leigh's pace and Abi's relentless work ethic, they drive the players around them. Abi can create a goalscoring opportunity from what most other players would consider a dead ball, she is a brilliant player, I am glad I play with her and not against her!
WSS: This week it is the turn of the League Cup and a quarter final tie away to Charlton Athletic. Is there a growing confidence in the team that you can go all the way in this competition?
SH: We are now eight unbeaten and although Charlton currently sit second in the Southern Division and are an unknown quantity to us, there is a strong belief within the team that we will get a result at the weekend. Defensively we are very strong, with captain Kelly Darby leading the team from the back, everyone knows their role and aims to beat their opposing player.
WSS: There have obviously been a lot of changes with a new manager and a number of new players but you are only six points behind third place, what do you think the team is capable of achieving in the second half of the season?
SH: We came into the 2016-17 season as Northern Premier League winners and Birmingham FA County Cup holders, so we will always aim to achieve our very best. For me I hope we will retain the County Cup title, get beyond the quarter final of the FA Cup and to finish in the top four in the league.
Our thanks to Sophie!
(Photo - Clive Jones)
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