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Donnelly previews play-off final

Rovers Ladies gear up for Sunday's showdown with Charlton at Bramall Lane

25 May 2018

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Manager Gemma Donnelly has been speaking ahead of Rovers Ladies' play-off final against Charlton Athletic on Sunday.

The game takes place at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane (kick-off 2pm), with both teams hoping to secure promotion to the newly-created Championship.

In a truly memorable season for the club, the Ladies team have already retained the FA Women's Premier League Northern Division title, as well as lifting both the Premier League Cup and Lancashire Cup.

Having lost to Tottenham Hotspur in last season's play-off final, the Rovers Ladies boss hopes to go one step further this time around.

Here's what she had to say ...

So, Gemma, how much is everybody looking forward to Sunday's game and the prospect of capping such a fantastic season with a possible promotion?

"Everybody is fully prepared and as confident as they can be going into a big game, as Sunday is. Obviously, having suffered the disappointment of last season, I now feel that we're mentally tougher and prepared for this game on Sunday, but football is football and it is effectively a cup game - winner takes all - so anything can happen. So we're just going to do what we have done so well all season. We're going to stick to the game plan and see where that gets us."

Given how well the girls have done all season, are you confident that you can get the right result?

"Stats would suggest that we're a tough team to beat, not just on paper, but we're unbeaten in the league away from home in two seasons. If I were to be analysing our team, I'd really struggle, because we can go in front and sustain it, we can go behind and come back, we can score in the box, we can score out the box, we're a threat from set-pieces, we've got some quality players within the team. So I think it's going to be a really close game and to give credit to Charlton, they do seem to be our nemesis, in that last season we played them in the League Cup and obviously this season we played them in the FA Cup and we haven't beaten them yet. But I'm just hoping that given the experience from last season and the momentum from this season, that it will be enough to stand us in good stead."

Having already faced Charlton this season, just how tough an opponent are they and what kind of threats will they pose?

"This season they bolstered their backroom staff with the previous Brighton manager. We played Brighton a couple of seasons ago in the FA Cup as well and it was a pretty tough game against them and we lost against them, and they've employed similar tactics in the Charlton team. What is for sure is that both teams - Rovers and Charlton - want to play football. That's the quality side of it. Both of us possess good qualities in terms of wanting to play the right style of football. However, anything can happen in a game of such magnitude and I think it's going to come down to who can hold their nerves the best on the day."

You've obviously got quite a few young players in the squad, but how important will the likes of Lynda Shepherd and Danielle Hill - the more experienced players - be on Sunday?

"Massively. Just in that they are experienced. And let's not forget, we've not changed the squad an awful lot from last season, maybe just improving it in a couple of areas. But they've all been through a journey together this season. We've had our adversities in that we're not undefeated this season, which has actually been really helpful to us, but yet we've played practically half of our games this season in the last six weeks. So we're unbeaten, we've got momentum, we're all super fit. We've coneded goals and fallen behind, none more so than in the big games, like Leicester in the League Cup final, and we've come back to win, Chorley in the Lancashire Cup final, and we've come back to win, and the last game of the season against Middlesbrough, when we were 2-0 down at half-time and we've come back to win. I'm not suggesting that that's the way we want to play it at all, because I think it would be incredibly difficult against the calibre of a team like Charlton, but I think the key thing is to go there and be confident and to utilise the experience in and around us to manage the game and to employ the tact that we have done all season which has proved successful for us, which is to play our game, because I think quality eventually prevails."

Finally, how big a help would it be to have a decent number of Rovers fans in the stadium supporting you?

"It would be massive. It's obviously really nice to not be down south this year. Sheffield is still a little bit of a trek, but we've put on a supporters coach and I know the girls will feel massively encouraged by anyone wishing to come and support the Ladies, as would the staff, so we invite anybody to come down and we look forward to seeing you there."

Rovers fans are reminded that the club are putting on a supporters coach to Sheffield United, which will leave Ewood Park at 10am on Sunday. The cost is just £15, which includes your match ticket.

For more information or to book your seat on the coach, please call 01254 372000 or visit the Roverstore at Ewood Park.

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