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Loughborough Foxes have been in excellent form in recent weeks, securing their fourth league victory in a row when beating Cardiff City Ladies 1-0, moving them up to fourth place in the Southern Premier Division table.
We talked to Foxes midfielder Laura Steele, who praised her team for their hard work in achieving the victory over Cardiff and also admitted that the team is exceeding their expectations in a new division after winning promotion at the end of last season:
WSS: That was another good win on Sunday, which takes your run to four on the trot, how satisfied are you with the result and performance when beating Cardiff?
LS: We worked really hard on Sunday and had spent time in training preparing a game plan for Cardiff based on what we had come up against in our previous game with them. I think a lot of the girls had a point to prove after the last game as we played quite poorly and were disappointed with the result in the away game. We had a good first half on Sunday and although the second half had lots of areas for improvement, I think we were all pleased we did a better job this time round.
WSS: What proved to be the winning goal was scored during the early part of the game, did you have to hang on at any stage or did you always feel comfortable?
LS: I think we were definitely hanging on a little bit towards the end as they kept putting more players up front, so we found it hard to deal with the pressure and weren't able to keep the ball as well as we did in the first half. The first half we were quite comfortable and should probably have increased the scoreline to be honest, but the second half was a different story as they switched their formation and pressed hard for an equaliser.
WSS: Cardiff beat you 3-1 when you met earlier in the season, was Sunday's result an indication of how much the team has improved recently?
LS: It was an indication of how we have been able to adapt and put a game plan together based on our knowledge from the previous game. Coming in to this league having had no experience of playing these teams and very little information, we have had to adapt as we go along in some games. After the away game we were quite clear on what we needed to improve on in order to get a better result. We have managed to bounce back after quite a hard run of losses to some tough opponents and I think the momentum and confidence we had at the start of the season has returned.
WSS: Has there been any particular reason for the upsurge in form in recent weeks, or is it mainly down to confidence?
LS: As I said, we have been able to adapt a little bit better and we have also had a few players coming back into the squad over the last month or so and this has significantly strengthened the depth of the squad. I think we now have one of the best defences in the league so have become quite hard to break down, I think this has been key to then being able to build on that to get some wins together.
WSS: This week you make the long trip to Kent to play Gillingham, who you will also meet the following week in the FA Cup. What kind of game are you expecting there?
LS: Again, we are new to the teams in this league so it is harder to know what to expect. I think going away to any team in this league is a tough prospect and if we don't perform, then we won't get a result but we know that if we execute our game plan then we have a great chance of getting a win.
WSS: The win against Cardiff takes you up into fourth place. After winning promotion last season, are you doing better than expected or were you confident that the team could do really well?
LS: Personally, yes we are probably doing better than I expected but this is based on previous experience after getting promoted into the National League Northern Division. I think we are better equipped this time round and have a better strength in depth, so it is no longer an issue if players get injured or have to miss games as every single position has competition.
WSS: Based on what you have seen so far, how well do you think the team is capable of doing this season?
LS: I think based on performances and having played most of the teams, I think a top five finish is realistic and doesn't put too much pressure on ourselves. The important thing this season was to establish ourselves at this level. Lots of our squad have not played at this level before so it has been a great experience for them.
WSS: Looking at the bigger picture, do you feel that Loughborough Foxes can establish themselves as a force in the division or at this level in the next few years, or maybe even higher?
LS: Most definitely we can be a force in this league, I think that the way that we play, our squad quality and our management team is evidence to that. In terms of going higher, I think the step up between the WSL and National League is quite a big one and as a small club that does not have the support of a men's team, for now we are quite happy where we are and getting our players some high level experience.
Our thanks to Laura!
(Photo by Andy Smith)
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