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FCUMW manager Luke Podmore and midfielder Fran Sullivan delighted after retaining County Cup

F.C. United Women retained the Manchester FA Women’s Cup in superb style on Friday night, with a 2-0 win over NWWRL Premier side, Manchester Stingers. A first half penalty from captain Kirsty Chambers doubled the lead on 39 minutes after midfielder Fran Sullivan expertly put the Reds in-front, in the early stages, with a well-whipped free-kick.

The midfielder was delighted to win her first piece of silverware since joining the club in the summer. "It feels amazing, everyone put a shift in. The pitch wasn’t anywhere near ideal, it didn’t suit the way we play, but right from the keeper to the number 9, everyone battled and put a shift in. I was delighted to see it [the free-kick] go in the back of the net finally!"

Sullivan picked up United’s Player of the Match award for her contribution to the Reds’ cup final success and admits that there is a winner’s mindset in the camp, something that she learnt as soon as she joined United, at the start of the season. "You can tell how much it means to the girls and the manager. It’s very easy and quite quick to get into that mindset that they’ve got - going into each game and wanting to win it and win it for them really is key".

Sullivan’s joy in the middle of the pitch, on Friday night, was just an indication of how well our number 7 has done in her first season at Broadhurst Park. The midfielder has often played in a system where linking up with players such as Cara Fields, Olivia Greenhalgh and Rebecca Foster has been something of a normality. Sullivan insists that it has been a pleasure to line up alongside her midfield colleagues, throughout this season. "They’re integral really, integral to the way we play. All three of them [Fields, Foster, Greenhalgh] are quality players, really good on the ball - they make my life a lot easier! Like the whole team, the group of players we have here are very special, but I think playing alongside those three; one makes my life easier and two make me really enjoy the football that we play".

After Friday night’s County Cup final win, the Reds still have both the league and the Argyle [League] Cup to play for. Currently sat top of the NWWRL Division 1 South and with a League Cup semi-final to come next Sunday, the Reds have the potential to make this season even more special than it arguably already is. The winning mentality in the dressing room will drive the team forward in these next few weeks, insists Sullivan.

"There is no other option but to win every game left. We have had a winning mentality since pre-season, we’ve only lost one game this season, even when we go down in a game, the team always pulls back and equalises. We know that we are always likely to win, so there is no contention".

Friday night’s cup win was the third piece of silverware picked up since manager Luke Podmore took charge of the team back in December 2016, with the team retaining the County Cup that coincidentally Podmore’s first trophy as FCUMW manager. The boss signaled his intention to attempt to retain the cup this season, back at the start of the campaign, and so was delighted that his side could tick off one of their targets for the season. "I’m over the moon. Obviously its always nice to get one of your targets in the bag at the first time of asking. I’m really really pleased for the girls, for them more than anything. I said to them before the game that it would be great to become that team, that great team, to win the competition again. To win it again second time round is special. It’s been a special night for a special team".

After beating City of Manchester Ladies in the final last season, Podmore admits that Friday night’s final win over Manchester Stingers was different to the corresponding fixture last season in a number of ways. "The first one [County Cup win] is always difficult because you have to break that duck of winning it. I suppose it felt familiar tonight because we’d already won the first one but it was a very different game. It was different circumstances, the pitch, the venue, the place - it wasn’t easy, we had to really work for it. Tonight was perhaps a bit more difficult but I suppose it just cemented us as that special team".

Sullivan and Chambers’ first half strikes had the Reds two-up going into the break in Friday night’s final. Podmore shared his half-time team-talk as the Reds looked to keep the lead and consolidate in the second half. "The message was just to be a little bit more like ourselves and try to move the opposition a little bit more. We found ourselves making it a little bit easy for them at times, so we just needed to adjust a few things - it was only small tweaks. Obviously we knew the pitch was going to get heavier, we knew we would have legs going off, legs coming on so it was really just about reconfirming what we wanted to do and making sure the players were on board with that, to pull together and get us over the line".

Earlier in the week, Podmore stated that a win on Friday night would hopefully be a "catalyst" for further success, in the next few weeks. With a number of big games to come in the run-in, the boss was delighted to win, what will hopefully just one of the trophies that United win in these next few weeks. "You get that trophy in the bag and it gives you a massive boost. It’s a little bit of motivation now to go onto the league and then it sets up the Argyle Cup game on the 22nd [April], in the stadium, perfectly. The fans have come out tonight and seen what we’re about, hopefully that gives them a taste of what’s to come and we can get a really good crowd at that game [vs CMB] and make a real statement. Hopefully we will then be able to make another cup final and then we’re 90 minutes away from winning another cup".

Next up for the Reds is a trip to Stockport Sports Village (SK6 1QX) on Wednesday night to face Stockport County Blues in the league before a huge Argyle Cup semi-final against NWWRL Premier side, CMB. The game will be played in the Broadhurst Park stadium and it would be great to see as much red, white and black in the stands as possible!

Thank you for all your support this week and we hope to see you again over the next few days!

By Mikey Partington

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First Posted ~ 21:16 Sun 15 Apr 2018
News ID ~ 7853
Last Updated ~ 21:22 Sun 15 Apr 2018