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Sheehan: I Hope We've Been Able to Light a Flame
Saturday, 23rd Mar 2024 19:01

Tractor Girls boss Joe Sheehan hopes that his side’s 5-0 victory over Chatham Town in their first ever league match at Portman Road has lit a flame in many of the youngsters watching, inspiring them to emulate the likes of Sophie Peskett and her teammates.

Sheehan’s team put in an impressive display as they dominated against the Kent side, who were relegated as a result of today’s match, in front of a crowd of 10,173 fans.

“We spoke in the week about thinking the occasion was a lot bigger than the result was going to be,” said Sheehan, giving a post-match press conference alongside winger Peskett, who scored Town’s second goal.

“We didn’t spend much time thinking about the result, it was more how we could make an impression on so many people, how could we be trailblazers and influence and inspire, and I hope give so many young children that they could fulfil like Sophie’s managed to experience today.

“And that was what it was about for us, really. And obviously we’ve managed to play reasonably well, I think we were a lot better in the second half, and scored a few goals, which I’m sure many would have gone home feeling a bit more entertained.”

The attendance is the highest to have watched the Tractor Girls, the previous biggest was the 2,000 who watched the Women’s FA Cup quarter-final against West Ham at the AGL Arena in March 2022, and also the largest to watch a game in the FAWNL Southern Premier Division.

“It’s an incredible number,” Sheehan reflected. “To get more than 10,000 for a game like this in a situation where we can’t win our division and there’s not many games to go, so for so many people to come and watch us with that in mind is incredible.

“We’re very grateful to everyone who has attended, we are just hoping that we’ve been able to light a flame in so many young children that can go home tonight, lie in bed and thinking about a performance like Sophie’s and try and emulate her one day and aspire to experience something like we have today.”

He added: “We needed to showcase at a reasonably good level to make an impression on so many other factors.

“I think in the first half we weren’t anywhere near the level that we’re capable of and we can understand that for such a young group experiencing that for the first time it can be really difficult to navigate their way through.

“But in the second half, we were desperate to try and play better and give a better account of ourselves and I think the fourth goal probably epitomises that. I think it’s a goal more like the level that we’re trying to perform at.

“I think we can be pleased with how we managed the occasion and the result but it’s so early for us still, we want to be so much better than we are and we work hard throughout the week to try and keep progressing.

“The fourth one for me was a great goal. Summer [Hughes] cutting off the left and connecting off to Tash [Natasha Thomas], who set it up for Lenna [Gunning-Williams], who’s hammered it in. It’s a goal that we’ll look back on and think that was really well worked.

“Nice to score five as well as for such a young audience, it was great for them to be able to cheer so many goals.

“Tash to get on the scoresheet, really good for her to get the first one. She’s been here as a player longer than anyone else, so for her to get the first goal was a great moment.

“It was a great finish and it’s interesting because sometimes her involvement at times can look like it’s quite limited based on who we’re playing against and sometimes there’s not much space for her based on the numbers that occupy the pitches.

“We find ourselves often where our two centre-halves don’t really have much pressure and they look like they’ve got a lot of time and a lot of space and obviously closer to the opposition goal, Tash gets less time, less space and more opposition players around her.

“So it’s really challenging at times for her to pick her moment when she can get involved in the game and connect with other players around the pitch.

“But we know if we can get her the ball in and around the box, she’s scored some really good goals this season and racked up a good tally and I’m so pleased that she managed to get a good strike off to get us off the mark.”

Regarding Peskett sitting next to him, he added: “She did alright! Sophie was good. We know what she’s capable of and is a constant threat every week. Unpredictable, has great end product and is electric when she gets going and I’m sure she’ll be really pleased with her performance.”

Lifelong Town fan Eloise King, who has been out injured with a back injury since the summer, came on as a sub in the closing moments.

“It was important that we got her involved today,” Sheehan continued. “She’s been out for a really long time, she’s had a difficult couple of years, in all honesty, but has been back training with us now for quite a few weeks and for her it was important that she got to experience today.

“We were pleased that the game allowed us to involve her and put her on because she’ll take so much pride. She’s been coming here probably since before she could even walk. She can come here now knowing that she got the chance to play here and get a nice little cameo and it was important that she got that.”

CEO Mark Ashton has said reaching the Barclays Women’s Championship is the aim, although with promotion this season having been out of the question for a number of weeks.

“I think so,” Sheehan concurred. “And hopefully when we do get there it’ll be the right time to do it.

“Not setting the bar too high, we want to develop a really good product on the pitch, we want players to develop week-in, week-out and just like our men, we want to get to our Championship and stay there and compete at the top end of it, not get there and struggle and have so many gaps and loose edges that need tying up.

“It’s all in good time, we’re really process-driven and we hope that when we get it right, we can get there and stay there and compete there because we don’t want to be a yo-yo, we want to blow the league way, in all honesty.

“We don’t want to take it close, we want to perform consistently, get out of this division and compete in the division above.”

Sheehan was pleased that people involved in the women’s side of the club in earlier years were also present to watch a day from which he, his players and staff can take a great deal of pride.

“We didn’t think too much about the result really,” he continued. “And in some ways, we’re so deep into our process that we didn’t have to spend too much time training for a performance.

“We’re really well drilled. If I hadn’t been here this week or last week, this team would have put in a performance like that, we’re so well-oiled now because of the work we’ve been doing over such along period of time.

“We didn’t really spend too much time thinking about the outcome of the game or how to play well because with the group we’ve got, it’s just preparing them for the occasion and ensuring that the players understood the stature of this stadium, to play here, how historic it and what’s happened before us with the men, and the opportunity for us to start our own legacy as trailblazers.

“We prepared our players for that and I’m proud of how it’s gone, I’m proud of the numbers and I’m also proud that there are so many people here who have laid the path for us when times have been more difficult.

“Ralph Pruden, the previous manager, was a guest of ours today. Roxy [Small], who works in our staff, an ex-player, I’m proud that they were able to get a taste of this as well because they put in a lot of hard work when times were a little bit more difficult, resources were a lot less and I’m so happy that they’ve been able to share this day with us as well.”

Photo: TWTD

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