When you're playing well you have to score, says Gillingham Ladies boss Simon Ratcliffe
The Kent side came away from Tottenham Hotspur empty handed as their opponents demonstrated clinical finishing and strength to win the game 3-0.
Only Lauren Phillips, Lauren Williams, Emma Ryne, Charlotte Long and Jade Keogh are the survivors from last season, where former boss James Maars led the club to runners-up spot to Coventry City in The FA Women’s Premier League South Division and clinched a Cup double of the Kent Women’s Cup and Ryman Women’s Cup.
Gills new boss Ratcliffe gave an honest assessment of his side’s performance over the 90 minutes.
He told the club’s website: “Overall, I’m disappointed to have lost. For the first 30-35 minutes I thought we competed well, we had plenty of chances and could have scored and for me we were the best team.
“But we gave away a poor goal from our goal kick and went in 1-0 down at half time.
“We started the second half poorly and had a mad six or seven minutes after half time where we conceded two goals – both of which were poor and it’s something we’re going to work on.”
Despite the result however, Ratcliffe was pleased to see a decent foundation to build on after a strong opening to the match.
“The thing I stressed to the players is that when you’re playing well you have to score which is what we didn’t do and as the game went on, the more they got on top of it and were far more physically stronger and that was the telling factor.”
Ratcliffe conceded that had his side managed to make the most of their chances and gone ahead, it would have given his players a huge lift after a less than ideal pre-season and could have altered the tempo of the game.
He said: “Certainly with most games the team that takes the lead goes on to end up winning but some of our girls are beginning to realise that what we are making in essence is a fresh start.
“For some of the girls who were here last year that may be hard to understand and to take but we’ve got to build again and we will do.”
And with the club honest about its pre-season limitations due to cancellations and the appointment of a new manager to lead them forward, the season’s opener provided Ratcliffe with one of only a handful of opportunities to really take account of where the team is at.
Ratcliffe admitted: “For some players that was their first full 90 minutes in pre-season which isn’t good enough and that’s something we’re aware of. When teams cancel their fixtures against you it sometimes makes it difficult, players with injuries and having international clearance does make it hard."
Despite difficulties however, what had the Gills manager learnt about his side from the game?
“The amount of football we played in the first 35 minutes showed me something we can build on and showed me that if we can stop giving the ball away in silly areas we can be a force to be reckoned with.
“It’s a re-building exercise and yes we have to get certain players in in certain areas and strengthen up but there’s a lot of players here who can do a sterling job for me and I see no reason why we shouldn’t push ahead from here.”
The Gills have a week off from League action, with a League Cup fixture against Ebbsfleet United on Sunday, giving Ratcliffe and his team further time to work together ahead of a highly anticipated trip to Brighton & Hove Albion (at Lancing FC, Thursday 4 September).
“I look forward to every game.” Ractliffe said and certainly they’ll be plenty of interest when Gills Ladies visit their former team-mates and manager.
Meanwhile, as one of the few faces to elect to stay at Gillingham Ladies over the summer, Williams was given the duty by the new manager to lead the side out as captain against Tottenham Hotspur.
A dedicated player at Gills Ladies for several seasons, Williams expressed her delight at being given the honour as Gills Ladies look to re-build after the loss of first team players to league rivals Brighton & Hove Albion.
She said: “It’s a bit of a shock to the system. I didn’t expect it to be me and it may well change from game to game but if I do continue to have the opportunity to lead the team out I will try to lead by example and help the girls out as much as possible.”
With a limited pre-season and the loss of the bulk of first team players from last year, Williams admitted it’s going to take hard work and commitment from the girls to repair and re-grow.
She said: “I don’t think anyone can really explain what has happened at the club this summer.
“It’s been a huge difference for the players who are already here but also for the players who’ve come in, they’ve arrived to a group of players who are quite deflated and disappointed.
“Fair play to the girls who’ve moved on but it has been huge and we’ve got to get used to it. This season is going to be one of transition. We’re not expecting to go out and win the league and win loads of trophies but we are expecting good performances and start gelling as a team.
“We have players still to come in and of course we’re always looking for new players and people with experience. It’s something we need to keep working hard on and sticking together as a team.”
And with the uncertainty of a new manager coming in, Williams praised the philosophy Ratcliffe has immediately introduced: “With most of the players going in the summer it was a little bit touch and go with what we were going to do, how we were going to set up are we going to have. Simon’s come in and set his own style on what he wants to do and the girls are pretty keen on playing the way he wants us too which is really good.
“We want to get the ball down, we want to play and pop the ball around in the right areas which is important. As long as people keep working hard and help him out as much as he is helping us then I think we’re going to have a good season.”
Gillingham face lower-league Ebbsfleet United in the League Cup on Sunday. The game will take place at Chatham Town’s Maidstone Road ground, kicking off at 2pm.
Williams said: “There’s not long until the Brighton and Keynsham double header but I think the Cup game against Ebbsfleet will be good for us.
“It’s another 90 minutes for us to get under our belts, an opportunity to express ourselves and practice things from training.”
Gillingham Ladies are currently looking to add to their playing staff – please contact email@example.com.
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