REDDITCH United Ladies boss Gary Barrell believes title rivals Worcester United have plenty of work to do if they are to pip his side to the West Midlands Women’s League Division One South title following the sides’ 1-1 draw at the Trico Stadium on Sunday.
The table-topping Reds went into the match keen to extend their eight-point advantage over second placed Worcester – who have five games in hand – but had to settle for a point.
The result means Redditch will need several favours off other sides in their bid to claim the sole promotion place, but Barrell knows the importance of points on the board and, regardless, was also keen to express his satisfaction at the progress his side is making.
“Worcester have got plenty of difficult games left, including two against Coventry Development, two against Droitwich, two against Kenilworth Town and one against Stourbridge,” said Barrell.
“All of those sides have given us tough matches this season and Stourbridge were the best team we have played in the league. There’s plenty of work for them to do, but the same goes for us with the four league games we have left.
“I think our progress over a short space of time has been remarkable. We’ve won eight of our 12 league matches, are unbeaten in 11 of those and have reached a League Cup semi-final with a win over Worcester.
“Worcester have been together as a team for a long time now, with lots of experienced players aged between 26 and 30, but that’s twice in a row we’ve been the better side in my opinion.
“On Sunday they played with two direct strikers and sat the rest behind the ball. They scored with a superb strike but other than that we dominated large chunks of the game.
“We kept playing our football and kept faith in what we were doing, even when it looked as though it wasn’t going to be our day, and the girls are just frustrated they couldn’t get the winner.
“However, that shows far we have come as a team.”
Barrell, who watched American debutant Mckenzie Karas equalise in the 76th minute, fielded four 16-year-olds in his starting line-up, and said this was proof of the success the club’s academy is already bringing as well as the ability to attract players to Redditch.
Keeper Sophie Charlotte Hayward, central midfielder Lily Eustace, left back Lucy Dovey and striker Becky Gompertz all started, whilst another 16-year-old – Holly Congrave – is also in the first team squad.
“We’ve become the premier destination for youth talent in the area, with lots of 16 to 18-year-olds, are playing good football and getting good crowds to watch,” he added.
“We’ve got academy players developing quickly, we train twice a week on the club’s 3G pitch and have provided a genuine pathway for girls to play competitive football. We’ve taken on a ground-breaking initiative with the American players we have brought over, so the progress is amazing really.
“We’ve also arranged a long weekend in Paris for the squad in February when we are without a fixture. Playing a match in Europe and giving such a travel experience to both our local and American players is all helping to build our brand.”
Redditch will now turn their attentions to another vital fixture on Sunday when they visit bottom placed Marston Green.