Millwall 2-1 Watford: Billie Brooks and Lee Burch left smiling after first home win
Brooks in action for the Lionesses at the start of the season

Following their engrossing win over Watford, VAVEL spoke to defender Millwall Billie Brooks and manager Lee Burch about their first home win of the year and building for the future.

Long-time coming

The win was the first the Lionesses have enjoyed at the Den this year, with a number of strong performances but without the results to back them up Brooks was delighted to have finally sealed that first elusive home win, the boost perfectly timed to carry Millwall through a tricky run-in, “It’s been coming for a few weeks and we’re all buzzing that we’ve finally got our first win at home and it’s come at the perfect time as we’ve got a really tough run of games to finish the season. With Sheffield, Villa and Durham coming up it’s a really nice boost to get the points and start pulling away at the bottom of the table.”

After claiming a win over Watford at Berkhamsted last month Millwall were left frustrated after a narrow defeat to Durham in their next outing, a lack of finish once again halting the Lionesses in their path.

However, the hosts had been licking their lips in anticipation of doing the double over rivals Watford, still lacking a little with the final ball Brooks can see continual improvement in the side, “The Durham loss was a bit tough but coming into this one we were all looking forward to it and we said we weren’t going to take less than all three points. It was a chance to put things right as well, against Durham we didn’t take our chances and the first thing we said for Watford was; we have to take our chances – we’ve scored two and hit the post and the bar, on another day they’d be goals.”

After losing new boss Rebecca Sawiuk in June as well as a number of players throughout the season the defender was full of praise for the new(er) Millwall boss, Lee Burch. A happier side behind the scenes, the Lionesses are looking ahead at a bright future, “With people coming and going it’s not been the easiest but Lee’s come in and he’s completely changed the atmosphere, a little while ago we were all dreading training and stuff but now we can’t wait to get going. That’s all down to Lee and we know he’s the right person to take us forward and now it’s all about building for next season; finishing this season right, and getting a good pre-season under our belt.

Acknowledging that you’ll never get anywhere in football without the right results, Brooks is hopeful that each improved performance will see the Lionesses climbing the table,
At the end of the day it’s a results business and of course we want the results but we’ve got to be putting in the strong performances and I think we’ve been unlucky this season with some of our games that we haven’t gotten the result. But we’re still improving and if we carry on in the same way but just start putting a few more chances away we’re definitely going to get the results.”

Looking to finish the season on a high, with nine potential points available from their last three games, Millwall are going into each with a point to prove, “With Sheffield, Villa and Durham left, we know it will be hard but we’re still going to target three points from each game.

Our reporter also once again spoke to the ever-affable Lionesses boss, Lee Burch about raising the bar and making the club as successful as it can be.

Much like Brooks, Burch was left beaming over the first home with of the year, “Your first wins are always important, it’s only my third home game; after hosting two top teams (Bristol City and Durham) we were always targeting this one. Before the match we said that this is one we wanted to dominate to come away with all three points and I’m over the moon that we were able to pick up the win.

Having had issues with taking their chances all season long and not being able to see games out Burch was left praising his sides’ sprit, not getting too ruffled when Watford reduced the deficit at the start of the second-half and continuing to create throughout the game, “I thought we did really well in the first-half, there was some spell where we knocked the ball around really nicely and had some passages of play where we had up to ten passes, just moving the ball between us really cleanly.  It was one of those two-nil up games where they’ve come right out after half-time and scored with a worldie and all of a sudden you get nervous, but we responded really well.

"They’ve had a cross where they had a half-chance and Sarah [Quantrill] caught quite well but apart from that we’ve still gone and had the better chances; Rinsola [Babajide] has hit the post from distance and that’s absolutely class from her as well as two in the six-yard box where we’ve hit the keeper. Again it came down to not wrapping the game up when we could have and we’ve done that a bit this season but at the end of the day, we’ve scored two goals and got all three points and that’s the important thing.

With no easy games in WSL, Burch is looking at three tough games to end the season with but believes his side are more than up to task, especially given the confidence boost of their win, “We know we’ve got some tricky games coming up but this boost will be huge for us going into both the Sheffield and Villa games. We finish the season away to Durham and obviously with where they are in terms of points needed for promotion that could make it more of an interesting game. But for us it’s just about ticking the games off one-by-one and laying down the building blocks to roll into the Spring Series.”

Always looking forward, Burch is keen to begin integrating development players into the senior team, making the Lionesses as competitive as possible, “We had a small bench today as we’ve got a number of players out with various injuries but there are plenty of development players I’m looking at bringing through and had they not been playing today too we easily could have seen some of them. But we’re certainly looking at bringing more players in, it’s just the usual logistical problems that come with clashes when you have players playing in the WPL and development leagues – they’re starting their season as we’re finish ours.”

He went on to say, “In total I think we have seven or eight internationals at the club, all at youth level, looking towards the future I’m really excited. We’ve just brought in Georgia Eaton-Collins who was in action for the development team to day so I’m really excited to see how she got on – and she’s another young England player to add to the all the ones we’ve got.

"The future of this club is really bright and I’m really looking forward to giving the development players start, as I said I would have liked to today unfortunately it’s clashed – and the development side has had some injuries too so both squads were stretched today.

After having lost a number of players throughout the season – mostly before he took the reigns – Burch is keen to make sure his squad is settled and happy where they are, happy with the players available to him, consistency key for laying down strong foundation for the coming season, “Football is football, you’re always going to get players moving around but I’ve made it clear to the group we’ve got here that I’m happy with them and want them all to stay. We’ve already had some preliminary talks with the players and everyone seems happy which is great news so it’s just about making sure everyone is on board and adding a few more to the group.”

Still just four games into his Millwall career Burch has clear ideas for the direction of the club and team, getting stronger every game the Lionesses should be roaring their way up the table in 2017, “It’s not about wholesale changes. This season for me was very much about understanding who’s here, what we’ve got on the pitch, what we’ve got in the first team development and then adding in the right places and I feel like we’re in a really good place for that.”