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Women's Football News
Stoke City made it through to the Fourth Round of the SSE Women's FA Cup on Sunday with a hard fought 2-1 win away to Derby County, courtesy of a late winning goal from Hannah Keryakoplis.
We talked to Stoke captain Meg Bowyer, who was full of praise for the effort put in by her team mates in achieving the win at Derby, whilst looking forward to their tie in the last 32 and the chance of taking on Championship side Aston Villa:
WSS: Well done on a fine win at Derby on Sunday, how hard did the team have to work for that result?
MB: It's always a close encounter when we face Derby, they're classed as our local rivals so we knew going into the game that we would have to work hard to grind a result out. Once we conceded we had to re-group quickly, we had to put the tiredness to the back of our minds and believe we had the quality to go on and win the game with a never say die attitude and we did. We live by the philosophy of "maximum effort is the minimum requirement" so no matter the level of team we come up against, we put in maximum effort.
WSS: The goal from Hannah Keryakoplis came at a perfect time for you, presumably it was a case of keeping your concentration from then?
MB: Yes, it was a great goal and it came at the perfect time for us! We knew Hannah coming on would give us fresh legs and quality, we're lucky to have the strength in depth to be able to make substitutions of Hannah's quality. She scored around the 90th minute, so we had about three minutes to see the game out - which felt like ten minutes! We've focused a lot on game management these last 18 months so that had to come into play, we had to keep shape, keep concentration and make sure the ball was in areas that couldn't hurt us.
WSS: That result makes it eight wins in a row in all competitions, surely confidence must be sky high right now?
MB: Yes it's a very good time for the club, the atmosphere at the training ground is very good and everyone is striving for the same thing! We're still in every competition and we're climbing the league table but we focus on staying grounded and taking each game as it comes. Hard work, grit and determination has got us to where we are now, so we aim to continue this and keep the good run going for as long as we can!
WSS: After two long journeys in the previous rounds, the draw has handed you a home tie with a Championship side in Aston Villa, how much will the team be looking forward to that one?
MB: We were joking around in the changing rooms after the win against Derby, saying I bet we get an away tie somewhere at the other end of the country! We're very happy that we have a home tie, and we are relishing the opportunity of playing against a Championship team local to ourselves. We already have some familiarity with Villa as our First Team Coach Chloe Jones was a long servant playing for them, along with our centre back Emily Owen, we also welcome back Hollie Gibson who was our left back last year as she left to join Villa in the summer so all those factors taken into account should make it an even more an interesting game! We have no pressure on ourselves, we continue to make our home ground a hard place for an away team to visit so it will definitely be one to watch!
WSS: In the meantime it is back to the league this week and an away game against Doncaster Rovers Belles, what kind of game are you expecting there?
MB: Any game in our league is a tough game, we have played Donny Belles previously this season and come away with a 5-0 win but we won't be focusing on that result. Donny Belles have had a change in form as of late and we will be conscious of this. We will go there and put in a performance that is hopefully worthy of bringing the three points home and keep our good run going.
WSS: What, realistically, are the aims for Stoke for the rest of the season?
MB: I think the main focus is to finish as high up in the league as we can, the highest we have finished in this league so far is fourth so we would be looking for a top three finish. Something we set our sights on at the beginning of the season is to have a good cup run, we want to win silverware, and we want to be in contention for every cup possible. With this we have to be realistic, we would aim to retain the County Cup, get as far as we can in the FA Cup and also we would ideally like to get to the final of the league cup as this is something we have never won. So it's a lot to aim for but I feel we have the capabilities of making this happen if we put the work in on the training ground.
WSS: Blackburn Rovers have matters in their hands in the title race right now, can you see anybody challenging them?
MB: Blackburn are a very good team and deserve to be top of the league, that being said, I don't think anyone in this league is unbeatable. There are quite a few teams in the league that are up there with regards to pushing Blackburn, Sunderland have come into this league strong and Huddersfield have also had a strong campaign so far. We are aware of Blackburn's form so far and keep an eye on results, however we focus on each game in hand rather than any opposition, we focus on winning each game we can and closing the gap between us and whoever may be top of the league.
Our thanks to Meg!
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