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Manchester City's English starlets proved they are big game players in the SSE Women's FA Cup final but manager Nick Cushing believes keeper Karen Bardsley was the real match winner.
At 0-0, the American-born shot stopper produced a flying save to deny West Ham's Jane Ross before Keira Walsh, Georgia Stanway and Lauren Hemp all scored to give Cushing's side a 3-0 win at Wembley.
The 34-year-old will be the Lionesses' first choice between the sticks for this summer's World Cup and a clean sheet in the biggest game of the women's football calendar could serve as the perfect preparation for France.
"Karen Bardsley thrives off making those big saves and in the big games, myself, England fans and everyone else can see the value in KB," said Cushing.
"We are all going to say that Hemp, Stanway and Walsh were excellent but I think KB makes a bigger contribution than anyone by making that save in the first half.
"I thought we were a bit emotional and the occasion actually affected our offensive play and we got into good positions around the box but we crossed the ball off the pitch and took shots on when they weren't shots.
"It was a little bit unlike us so I asked them to settle down a bit and play logically and in the second half we looked more confident and went on to control the game.
"We set out to do a job against West Ham who we know to be a difficult team to play against and we are proud that we have added the SSE Women's FA Cup to the FA Continental Tyres League Cup this season."
There is no doubt that Manchester City's young goalscorers deserve the headlines and credit they have received and it was Stanway's strike that took the hope away from Matt Beard's Hammers.
A competitive first half performance was overshadowed by an inability to cope with the attacking threat of the 2017 winners in the latter stages of the match at the home of English football, and Cushing believes that experiences like these are going to be vital in the development of his young players.
"We have to expose these younger players to these big occasions because we want them to reach their potential and irrelevant of the result, Lauren Hemp had to get on the pitch today just like Georgia Stanway did in 2017," added Cushing.
"People will say that we have scored goals this season, played good football and have great young players but I think resilience has been our key.
"This team's ability to absorb pressure has probably been our biggest attribute and that is the thing I am most pleased with - when we are on the rack we have absorbed the pressure, stayed in the game and been able to take the wins."
As the energy behind women's football, SSE's ambition is to support girls of all ages in England, helping them join in football from grassroots to the elite level. For more information on SSE's sponsorships and activities visit sse.co.uk.
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