We spoke to Doncaster Belles boss, Emma Coates after her side finally earned their first win of the year, ironically in their last game of the season.
Relief all around
After having gone so long without even a point, finally getting a win and points on the board came as a great relief to the boss that had seen her side come close more than once this year, “It’s a massive relief and I said to the girls it’s a long journey home with no points getting in at two or three in the morning. I wouldn’t say it’s the prettiest performance but sheer determination and grit got us through. I thought we were poor in the first-half and we were lucky to go in at nil-nil but you can see the improvements we’ve made, in other games we would have gone in two or three-nil down but we really stuck in and you can see at the whistle exactly how much it means to them all today.”
In what was arguably their best performance of the year the Belles saw three excellent chances go begging as Royals 'keeper, Mary Earps pulled off a string of world-class saves, “Have to give credit to her, there’s two or three where she’s just got to it to tip it over the bar; another day, another keeper and it’s three-nil.”
With the performances improving every game and a win finally under their belts Coats was left frustrated, the end of the season coming all too soon for a side that had finally fallen into stride. The young manager left rueing the first-half of the season before she took charge, “what ifs” around the Belles relegation unspoken as she could only look to carrying the momentum through to next season, “I’m completely sad to see the end of the season, what frustrates me is I’ve been in charge for about four months now and I honestly feel like I’ve run out of time and if I’d had that first four-month period at the start of the season then I think I could have embedded what I’ve embedded in them sooner and possibly – and I’m only saying possibly not definitely – we could have been in a better position come the end of the season.
"But we’ve ended this season on a high, we’ve got the three points today and you know, we go into every game wanting three points and it’s great to finally have gotten that reward and it will help us springboard into next season.”
Keeping calm and positive
With player movement inevitable in any transfer window Coates is optimistic that she can keep the bulk of her squad, acknowledging the role her loanees have played this season, “We’ve got two loanees [Maz Pacheco and Carla Humphrey] who’ll be returning to their parent club and they’re two incredibly talented young players and it will be a shame to see them go and I think they’ve both played brilliantly tonight. Naturally in any window there’s going to be any moment and going to WSL 1 to WSL 2, I really strongly believe if I can keep the core of this group together I think we have a good chance of spring boarding and using the momentum to return to WSL 1 and hopefully stronger and ready to flourish.”
With a return to WSL 2 comes new challenges for the Belles, the league only growing stronger in their absence and Coates is remiss to think that Donny will be the team getting promoted at the end of the 2017-18 season, “It’s been so competitive this year; it’s been the closest it’s ever been and we’re not naïve enough to think we can go down and come straight back up because I don’t think that’s the case. What we’ve got to do is dip our toes in the water in the Spring Series, get that right, get pre-season right – we’ve been training full-time for a year now and I think that extra physicality will give us the edge over those WSL 2 players that are only part-time.
"The aim is to keep as similar to the model we’re using now and run it as if it was a full-time club and that will help us tackle next season.”