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For the second week in a row, Gillingham came from behind to win in the Vitality Women's FA Cup and their reward for a 2-1 extra time win at Cheltenham Town is a meeting with mighty Arsenal in the Fourth Round.
We talked to Gills defender Millie Waud, who praised the team for their resolve and character in both wins against Crawley Wasps and Cheltenham, as well as relishing the propect of facing up to a star-studded Arsenal side this Sunday:
WSS: Another really good win for you away to tough opponents, you must be delighted with that result at Cheltenham?
MW: The girls worked extremely hard during the Cheltenham game! It was a tough game which we expected. There's not a better feeling then winning a tough game like that, let alone going through to the next round in the FA Cup.
WSS: For the second week running, you had to come from behind to win, which surely demonstrates the team's character and resolve right now?
MW: Coming back from losing has never been a speciality of our team throughout the years. I think last season, with lots of faces joining, and then being hit with a lockdown, it shows just how far we have come as a team, we have developed a tight bond and we have a really good team ethos in order to have the character to come back in both games. I think it shows how much we wanted this.
WSS: Otesha Charles is picking up a happy habit for you of scoring late winners, what were the last few minutes like after she put you 2-1 ahead?
MW: Against Crawley, scoring in the last few minutes was an unimaginable feeling, but then having to hold on to that lead until the whistle, we had to remain calm and focused and I'm sure the coaching stuff were on the edge of their seats. Likewise with Cheltenham, watching from the sideline I think was even a worse feeling! I think we were all anxious. But huge credit to Otesha who had worked tremendously hard to keep up her hard work all the way up until 90 minutes and she is a great asset and threat in our squad.
WSS: How important though was the challenge by Amy Haynes to prevent a goal a few minutes earlier?
MW: Crucial - I think all challenges and one-v-one should be crucial, if all players win their battles we win the game. The heart and desire from every team member, including Amy has been the reason for our success. I think Amy has stepped up massively as a young player into a new position of right back and been on top form!
WSS: Now of course it is the small matter (!) of playing away to Arsenal in the next round, is this a match you could possibly have even imagined playing just a few weeks ago?
MW: Playing Arsenal Women, I think everyone would agree was a joke to us all at first. Although we knew it was a possibility, I don't even think it feels real to us now we are here. It was only a few months ago we were watching clips of their performances to get ideas and improve our game and know they are our opponents!
WSS: You could possibly be lining up against the likes of Miedema, Little, Mead, Nobbs and van de Donk on the day, how exciting or daunting a prospect is that?
MW: I mean these players are world class, players we all look up to and young girls look up to. I think it's exciting to play against the best, and is a great experience we will all definitely remember for the rest of our lives. Yes of course, it is extremely daunting and I'm sure we will all be nervous, but we have nothing to lose and we have no pressure, so I think we will also be just excited and up for the challenge.
WSS: Whatever happens on Sunday, you can look back on a good Cup run which will bring you a lot of publicity and important prize money for club funds?
MW: This cup run has been the best I have experienced, and playing Arsenal is a huge achievement for the club and individuals. This cup run was unexpected but a great building block for confidence for next season - and of course, publicity is also positive as well as the prize money to help fund our travel and club for next season! It's nice to repay our management staff and behind the scenes team for all their hard work!
WSS: Are you confident that the team can build on this cup run and go on to better things next season?
MW: 100%. This is just the beginning for our squad we have got so much more to give and learn, and I think this cup run, considering we haven't played or trained together as a team throughout lockdown, just shows what we are capable of. And I think we are a force to be reckoned with!
Our thanks to Millie!
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