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Ladies return to action with Exeter FA Cup challenge

11 December 2020

With the men's senior squad and under-18s having done battle with their counterparts from Exeter City of late, it's now the turn of the Ladies side as they head to Devon on Sunday in the Vitality Women's FA Cup first round proper.

Having not played since 1 November because of lockdown two, it'll be the Ladies first game since football was allowed to continue in six weeks, with their last outing having been in the same competition as they got past Portishead Town Ladies with a 3-1 win.

Exeter are Women's National League Division One South West rivals and both teams are only separated by goal difference in the fourth tier of the female game.

Ladies manager Tom Davies recently spoke to Danyal Khan to preview Sunday's tie and the return to playing competitive games.

What have you been doing during lockdown with the players?

We've tried to implement certain things on certain days, so we've done performance analysis stuff that we potentially wouldn't have had the opportunity to and the detail that we've been able to do it in so far. We've been doing HIIT sessions every Thursday and we've allowed players to pick up certain things whenever they wanted to. We've got different people in different professions - we've got some at college, some teaching, and professions that require different things at this stage. We give them the ideas and allow them to pick things up and do them when they can do. Personally throughout the staff we've been contacting players consistently and checking up on people and making sure people are okay and what they're up to and how their spirits are. Its been quite hectic but relaxed at the same time.

It was three wins on the bounce before the second lockdown hit. How difficult will it be to pick up from where you left off?

It's difficult to say. Ultimately we're not going to necessarily hit that momentum because of what we did previously, and we're not necessarily going to find negative results because of that. Four weeks in between any result is very unlikely to have an impact. We look forward, we don't really look too far back, and we just go that Exeter is the next game and therefore this is our preparation. We look forward to playing football again and having fans and people there to support that game. There's not too much looking back, it's looking forward and looking at the positives and seeing what we can do.

The next game is the long away trip to Exeter in the FA Cup. What sort of challenge are you expecting from the Grecians?

We played them last year in the FA Cup and it was a very strange game. It was 4-3 in the end and the changeover in terms of who took the lead and the intensity of the game was strong. It was played on a 3G pitch at All Saints' and I think we were quite fortunate to win that game if I'm honest. On reflection Exeter played very well that day and I think it was just individual performances that took us through. We're expecting the same. We're expecting them to be very hard working and very well organised and coached. We move into that game having a brief idea of what happened last season and knowing that we're very different in terms of the players and the personnel that we have. We're two slightly different types of sides but I'm expecting another similar type of encounter.

If you do manage to progress to the next round how much would it mean financially for the club?

It is a massive thing for the club. When you start moving through the rounds the prize money is a decent amount of money but equally it's when those amounts start adding up together. One amount from one round isn't life changing, but if you put it onto the back of two results if we are fortunate enough to go through and win this game then those three amounts, plus the amount of the next round, and you get money if you win or lose, that starts adding up and having an impact. For us as a club it's really nice to go forward and earn that money and to be able to put it into the bank to start developing the club off the field. The most important aspect of it though is the staff and the players and everybody in the club just wants to progress in the FA Cup. To play in it and participate in it is a big thing and everyone has their own stories and memories, and we want to create our own, and if we're fortunate enough to do that this season then we'll look to do that.

Some of the bigger clubs come into the next round. If you were to get through are there any particular clubs you'd prefer playing?

I've got a few in terms of teams that I've coached at before at Wolves and Stoke and I've got a lot of friends there still. You never really want to go into competition against those, you want to go to someone different, someone exciting. But I think as a staff and as a playing group we're not really looking that far ahead. Exeter are a very strong team and have had some fantastic results this season and last season so we'll focus on them. If it was to happen we'll take the draw as it comes. If we get someone in and around our division that's fantastic - if we get someone higher it's a great opportunity to test ourselves but all focus is on Exeter.

Kick-off on Sunday is at 1pm with the game taking place at Cullompton's Speeds Meadow.


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