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Sunday was a red letter day for Gillingham Ladies as they reached the Final of the FAWNL League Plate with a 1-0 victory over Division One Midlands leaders West Bromwich Albion.
We talked to Gillingham midfielder Ellie Manning, who praised the determination of her team mates to get the result they wanted on the day, and insisted that the club can build on this achievement for the future:
WSS: Congratulations on reaching the Plate Final, how does it feel to have got there?
EM: It feels really good to say that we are going to be competing in the plate final. We had a rocky start to the season, we have finally started to find our feet, and booking our place into the final really solidifies this. I've been at Gillingham on and off for a few years now and I don't recall making it this far previously, so it really is something to look forward to.
WSS: Chloe Fowler scored the only goal early in the second half, but what was it like during the last ten minutes or so for you and the team?
EM: The goal was a pivotal moment in the game, from that point on we knew West Brom were going to come at us. I would say it wasn't only the last ten minutes that were the nerve racking part, but at least the last 25. The girls were putting their bodies on the line all over the pitch and the determination to want to get to the final really shown through in all of our performances.
WSS: You have come through some difficult ties in the Plate, none moreso than West Brom who had won all of their games in the league this season. Would you say it is the best the team have played this season?
EM: I would not say that is the best that we have played, no. We had a couple more gears to go in the game against West Brom, across the whole pitch, and to still get the win knowing that it wasn't our best performance is a great feeling. It was really hard to get going in this game, not sure what we can put it down too, but the pitch wasn't great and the weather conditions didn't help the situation an awful lot either. However, in terms of battling and working together as a team this was up there with the best.
WSS: After getting through the First Round with a 5-4 win against Luton, could you have envisaged that you would go this far or did you have a feeling that this might be your year?
EM: I didn't play the Luton game myself, but we do still speak about it now and how it wasn't one of our finest moments, as we could have very easily thrown away the lead we had in that game and been out of the cup. Every team we have come up against, I have always fancied our chances. However, you can never underestimate any team in a lower league, especially someone like West Brom who really are only 4 or 5 spots behind us if you put us into one big league table.
WSS: Your opponents in the Final will be MK Dons, who are beside you in the league table and you have one win apiece from your league meetings. Do you think that the final ought to be another close game?
EM: I do think it will be a close game, because both times we have met with MK Dons the scoreline has been tight. We won't be looking at it as a game to get one more over on MK Dons though, we will be looking at it as winning the Plate Final. Saying we have been MK twice would just be an extra additive. It would be nice for it to be a goal thriller of a game, in our favour... of course!
WSS: In the meantime, it's back to league action and you have matches coming up against Watford and QPR in the next week. Two wins in those games could take you into mid-table, is that a good incentive going into those matches?
EM: That is a really good incentive and something that we are aiming to do. Considering the rocky start to the season that we have had and luck not being on our side, we probably didn't think we could say we are sitting just out of the relegation battle and are ready to compete in two cup finals, but we are and this is a massive positive to us. We go into games with a different attitude now, not just hoping for a draw or thinking, this team is higher than us on the table we might struggle. We have come away from a couple games recently having lost and have been so disappointed because we genuinely did deserve more. We are looking forward to both of these fixtures and hope to take nothing but three points.
WSS: Do you think that the team and the club can build on this cup final appearance in the future, from next season?
EM: Making it to the cup final only gives me the confidence that we can do this next season, and the season after, regardless of whether we win or not. If the team that we have now stays together and we build on this, then the only way from here is up.
WSS: How big a boost to the women's game in the area would it be, if you could lift a major trophy?
EM: I think it would be really great in terms of getting our name out there. Gillingham isn't a small club, and they have got some backing, but for the women's side of things it would be nice to get some more backing from people that live in the area. A few seasons ago we were getting a couple hundred people to our games at Priestfield, there is absolutely no reason why this cannot happen still. I think we are one of the most well known ladies clubs in the area, so for the younger generation to get wind of our successes that we are currently having, I think it will only help get more young girls involved in football. I don't want to jinx it too much and talk about lifting the trophy already, but this would help massively.
Our thanks to Ellie!
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