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Gillingham moved a step closer towards winning the South East Division One title when they won 1-0 against Stevenage Ladies on Easter Sunday.
We talked to Gillingham captain Jade Keogh, who admitted that the Stevenage game had been a "tough" one and that the team are fully focused on the task to try and get themselves over the line:
WSS: Well done on another win on Sunday, was it as hard fought as the scoreline suggests?
JK: Yes it was a tough game! Stevenage set up to sit in so made it really difficult for us to have clear cut chances. I feel like we played well and were patient but once we got into the final third we couldn't quite get it right. It took a great finish from Jenny Newman to break the deadlock but once we did score, Stevenage then pressed us higher up the pitch and committed more players forward, so put us under pressure towards the end of the game.! Although the amount of possession we had may not have reflected the scoreline I think the game, all in all, was definitely hard fought!
WSS: Was it a different kind of game to the one you played against Stevenage a few weeks ago?
JK: Definitely! We knew that a few weeks ago we didn't have a great performance but managed to be clinical in front of goal. This week we solely set out to perform well to make up for the sluggish performance in the previous game against Stevenage! This game ended up allowing us to have a better all round team performance however we just weren't as clinical and didn't have as many chances in front of goal. I think tactically, Stevenage set up slightly different than previously and also not playing on a 3G pitch also changed the game for us.
WSS: How tough has it been over the last few weeks as you have been catching up league matches on the teams that were above you?
JK: To be honest, I personally don't feel like it has made much difference to us as a team. We take every game as they come and only concentrate on doing the right things on the pitch. We don't focus on what's happening around us! We focus on our own work rate, how we compete and battle and also our all round performance. We know that if we play well and do those things we will win games because of the quality and depth of our squad.
WSS: On Sunday you kept your ninth clean sheet of the season in the Stevenage game, how big a role have the defence played in your title challenge?
JK: The defence have played a huge role in our title challenge! Normally a lot of emphasis goes on the attacking players and those who score the most but it's our defence who have been so key to our season. The competition we have within the squad alone for the defensive positions just shows how much depth we have and it encourages everyone to perform as well as they can to keep their place within the team. We do like to play out from the back, so all it takes is a lapse of concentration and we could concede a goal which can change a game. On and off the ball, the defence have a huge part to play within the team I think a lot of credit needs to be given to our goalkeepers and back line because when they're playing well, the whole team seems to calm and the way we flow throughout the team becomes so much better.
WSS: This week you take on Actonians who have had a good season, how tough a game are you expecting?
JK: We are expecting a very tough game and it's a game that we are not taking lightly. When we played Actonians away we found it to be one of the toughest games this season. They got the ball down and played football and also pressed us for most of the game. They have girls that will battle and we know we need to be at our best to get the result we are looking for. I think the pitch will go in our favour as we are used to having a nice surface to play on week in week out at K Sports. Hopefully we can utilise this and play the kind of game we like to play rather than turning it into a battle!
WSS: You need two wins from four games to clinch the title, is it hard not to think about this when going into games?
JK: Honestly I think it is on everyone's mind! We know that we are so close now but cannot let the pressure get to us. I think we are all experienced enough to know what we need to do to get the wins that we need. As mentioned before, all we can do is take each game as they come. On the day we won't be focusing on anything else but how we perform as a team and continuing to do the right things on the pitch. Hopefully if we get that right then the results will end up going in our favour. But this will not be down to us just thinking about the title but down to our professional mentality, work rate and desire on the pitch.
WSS: How important would it be for Gillingham to get back into the Southern Division and are you confident that the team could flourish at that level if you do get there?
JK: I think it would be huge for us to get back into the Southern Division. It was unfortunate the way in which we got relegated two seasons ago off the back of a big change at the club. Last season we came close but lost out to a strong Crystal Palace side and I do believe we really are ready to get back up there. I'm very confident that we can flourish at that level - the strength and depth of our squad is honestly frightening! We have players that have played in the WSL and mostly all of us have played in the Southern Division for many years. We know that we have the personnel to do well, and we also have a solid unity as a team off the field, which I think helps massively. We all have the same goal and genuinely have a great bond - no one in this team is there for themselves, everything we strive for is for the team. I think that the team spirit and having a great manager with Jack (who dedicates a lot and is very passionate about the cause) are solid foundations to help us do well in the Southern Division.
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