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Stoke City have reached their first major Cup Final after winning 2-0 away to Milton Keynes Dons in the semi finals of the FAWNL League Cup on Sunday.
We talked to Stoke midfielder Ali Hall, who was understandably delighted with the result and set her sights on challenging for a top three places as well as the forthcoming League Cup Final:
WSS: Many congratulations on the semi final win, how does it feel for you and everyone at the club to have reached its first major final?
AH: Thank you, it feels incredible to have reached the final, it means so much to all of us at the club and it is a result of all the hard work that has been put in this season by everyone. Reaching the semi final made history for Stoke City Women but the final is an even bigger milestone for us and one that we will take pride in being a part of.
WSS: You went into the game as warm favourites, was there any concern that complacency might have crept in beforehand?
AH: Not at all, we knew MK Dons would be very organised and they also had the home advantage at an unbelievable stadium which all players at this level aspire to play at. We prepared very well, as we always do, and were ready for a tough game.
WSS: The two goals came in a six minute spell around the hour mark, did you feel comfortable from that point?
AH: We controlled possession for most of the game, however we knew we needed a goal to feel more comfortable. More so in the second half, we settled into our stride and created opportunities which led to our two goals. From then on, we definitely felt more comfortable, but we knew it was important to stay composed and try to control the remainder of the match.
WSS: Now you have a big day ahead against another team in red and white stripes in the final, as you will play either Sunderland or Southampton who meet this week. What are your thoughts on potentially facing either side?
AH: We cannot wait for the final regardless of who we are facing, but we know either side will be very challenging. Sunderland are a talented team who we know well, they are a good footballing side who have excelled so far this season. Southampton seem to be going from strength to strength and have achieved great results against many teams in the leagues above them. We truly believe we can beat either team and either match-up will be a fantastic contest.
WSS: Because of the weather, you have more or less been playing every two weeks and in different competitions all the time, has it been tough for the team to find any kind of consistency or momentum?
AH: It is always difficult when matches are called off due to the weather, which makes it hard sometimes to build momentum. However, we prepare for these circumstances every year and importantly, we always continue to train at a very high intensity to be physically and mentally ready for the next match.
WSS: It's your first home league game for over three months on Sunday...you're up against Huddersfield who you have met in both cups recently and both have been close games, are you expecting the same again this week?
AH: Firstly, we're so excited to be playing at home again and look forward to seeing our home supporters. We have already played Huddersfield three times this season, every game has been challenging and we definitely expect another close game. We came out on top in the most recent League Cup quarter final against them and we hope to do the same again in the league match this weekend on our turf.
WSS: As things stand, you still have half the season to play and are only four points off second. How confident are you that you can push for at least a top three place?
AH: One thing I love about this league is that it is incredibly competitive from top to bottom and anything can happen. Our recent results have been excellent and we have built momentum which I believe we will take forward into the rest of the season. We will continue to push on and win as many games as possible to climb the table and I am very confident we will finish within the top three.
WSS: Now the club has made the breakthrough and got to its first major final, do you think that this can be a launch pad for bigger things in the future?
AH: Yes, 100%. Reaching our first major final is a huge achievement for all involved with the club and has shown exactly what we can do as a collective. This is just the start for us and the club has a massively talented group of players, coaches and staff who will continue to grow and show great intent for the future.
Our thanks to Alison!
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