09:00AM, Monday 23 November 2020
Maidenhead United Women’s player Amy Saunders can see the massive strides being taken by the side under manager Nev Saroya this season.
In previous campaigns the women have struggled in league and cup matches but this season not only are they fitter, stronger and better equipped to compete physically and mentally. They’ve also recruited a little bit of quality to give them the edge when matches are tight.
They’ve lost only once this season, a 3-2 reverse to Chesham United, and are targeting a mid-table finish as the bare minimum in the Women’s South West division. They’ve also progressed to the first round of the FA Cup, despite not being quite at their best according to Saunders.
“It’s been a good start to the season,” said Saunders. “There has been a massive improvement in comparison to last season. With Nev the manager and everyone else, we don’t just want to settle though. I think the wins we’ve had are motivating us and bringing us closer
“But that happens for any team and it’s a big disappointment to have to stop and have this break.”
Just when the side were finding their stride, and off the back of a 2-1 win over Fulham Foundation in the final qualifying round of the FA Cup, the season was temporarily halted with the country being placed in a second national lockdown.
All matches and group training sessions have been suspended until December 2, however, Saunders said she and the team would do all they can to keep as fit as possible and come back ready to play matches when required.
“We’re all doing our own little individual fitness plans,” she said.
“We’re just trying to stay as fit as possible. As soon as we get the go ahead to play hopefully, we can get straight back into it and continue to pick up points and good results.
“It’s very difficult. There’s always such good, friendly, competition in training which motivates you. Even though it’s not a competitive thing, you’re still trying to beat the person next to you or motivate your teammates. We bounce off each other but now we must be very strict with ourselves and find the team to go out and keep ourselves fit. It’s a lot more difficult, but I’ve just got it in the back of my head that I just want to be ready to go as soon as we’re able to play again.”
If the sanctions are lifted United’s next league game will be away to Poole Town Ladies on Sunday, December 13, something for the squad to focus on as they knuckle down to their individual training regimes. Their fitness has been one of their great strengths this season, with Saunders saying the side is now capable of competing and working hard over 90 minutes.
“We’ve had a couple of strength and conditioning coaches come in,” she said. “That’s helped massively because we can now compete until the end of matches when we weren’t able to do that before. I certainly feel fitter and I feel fresher in my recovery from games. Poole away is on December 13. It’s a good date to focus on, even if things are still in the air a little. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’ll work towards that date and hopefully get straight back on it.
“Obviously, it would be good to improve, and I really believe we could finish higher than mid-table if we continue to put the hard work in as a team. We have a couple of new additions who’ve brought a bit of quality to the team. We’ve always had that hard work ethic but now we’ve added some quality and it does make a difference.”
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