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Donnelly anticipating a tough game

"It's going to be incredibly tough against a team that is relatively newly established in terms of the personnel that they have brought in, but they are all experienced players"

6 September 2020

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Rovers Ladies' FA Women's Championship opener against Leicester City will be a very difficult game, according to manager Gemma Donnelly.

City, a newly professional outfit, are the hosts for Rovers' long-awaited first game of the 2020-21 season, which will be held behind closed doors at Farley Way Stadium on Sunday (2pm).

Donnelly believes the fixture presents a testing start, but says the team will be doing everything they can to try and get a positive result from the encounter. 

"It's going to be a tough start to our season," Donnelly admitted. 

"Leicester have just recently announced the pledge from the men's club to take the women under their wing, which is fantastic. It's really encouraging signs for women's football. 

"But with that comes huge investment of course and it's something that we're not able to match at this moment in time. 

"They've brought in some quality players and those girls are going to have a point to prove. They are going to be high flyers this season, no doubt. 

"It's going to be incredibly tough against a team that is relatively newly established in terms of the personnel that they have brought in, but they are all experienced players. 

"We're going to turn up and give them a game and ensure that we give a good account of ourselves. We're going to keep learning and keep pushing forwards as well."

One familiar face welcoming Rovers this weekend will be forward Natasha Flint, who swapped Lancashire for Leicestershire in the summer after a successful two-and-a-half years with Rovers. 

"Tash (Flint) left us in the summer to join Leicester, probably the worst kept secret, but Tash needed a new challenge." Donnelly continued. 

"She'd done fantastic for Rovers and I phoned her not so long back after she'd announced she was leaving, just to say thanks to her. 

"She scored some important goals for us to get us into the Championship and she also scored some really important goals in the Championship to keep us here as well and I'll forever be grateful to her for that. 

"I know Leicester had been after Tash for quite a number of seasons, so I wish her the best of luck at Leicester, but not so much for this particular Sunday."

The game will also see Rovers play without any supporters present in a competitive game for the first time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Donnelly says her players are fully prepared for the task. 

She added: "It's become the new normal almost, we've experienced it over the course of pre-season, playing behind closed doors and going through all the protocols. 

"As it's an away game, it's unlikely that we would have had many visiting spectators following us to Leicester's ground, it's an absolute trek. 

"That said, I can't wait for the fans to come and watch us again, I know we have a really good nucleus of people coming to support the girls. 

"I think they'll be pleasantly surprised by the girls that we've retained, obviously they're the regulars and well known amongst the fans, but also the girls that we've brought in. 

"I look forward to almost presenting them in front of our fans when they are able to return and it's safe for them to do so."

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