Although Gungahlin United FC are not currently on their ideal ladder positioning in the 2022 Women’s NPL season, coach Pat Mills believes his team has what it takes to reach the top four and have a shot at finals.
After facing the top two teams consecutively and coming away with a 2-2 draw to Canberra Olympic FC and a 2-1 loss to ladder-toppers Canberra Croatia on Sunday, Mills is hopeful for what the season holds.
“The two goals Canberra Croatia scored were opportunist goals, we made it hard for them. I thought we tried to play some good football, but the girls are still getting used to each other because it’s a new team, whereas they’ve been together for centuries,” Mills said.
“Both teams played well out there. We created a fair few chances where we got lucky on some, but I felt we were competitive with them and I feel like we shouldn’t be where we are on the ladder, we should be moving up now, fingers crossed.”
Because Gunners had played the high-flying Olympic in the previous round, they were already in the mindset of playing a highly dominant team, so Mills said Gungahlin repeated what they did last week.
“Against teams like that, you must put the work in because if you give them too much time and space, they dictate whatever they want. When we do the hard work well, we minimise that and create chances,” he admitted.
“There was a spell there where we had four shots on goal, that was the difference. They took their two chances, which weren’t particularly brilliantly crafted but they took them well.”
Mills is determined to make a comeback and climb up the ladder by picking up missed points against previous opponents in the coming weeks.
“You have to say it is where you’re meant to be, ladders don’t lie. I do think we are improving so we just have to keep it going,” Mills said.
“That’s the top two teams that we have played in successive weeks which other teams folded against, but we’ve drawn with almost both of them,” Mills said. “You’d like to think that we can do better against some of the other teams that we dropped points with in the first rounds.”
As a result of contesting reasonably well against those more challenging teams, Gungahlin are striving for a spot in the top four and Mills believes his team is worthy of reaching this goal.
“I think we have to potentially do something special against the elite teams in the competition, but I don’t think we are out of the four yet. I think we have every chance to get there,” he said.
“I’d like to think we have the ability to be in the top four, they’re playing the football, they’re getting better at the combinations because they’re playing more together now and if we get all of our team back at one stage, we have sixteen very good players.”
Gungahlin FC have welcomed back two star players this season with the likes of A-League Women’s record goal scorer Michelle Heyman and Brigitte Sander who has returned from the college competition in the US.
“Having Michelle back is huge, not just in a football sense but her personality and enthusiasm with the girls. They raise immensely when she’s out there as you would. She’s a nice person as well, really great to have in the squad,” Mills said.
“I think Brigitte has done really well too, another forceful player. I remember coaching her when she was a 14-year-old but not she’s a bit older and wiser. She’s still playing in the same position and doing a great job at it.
“This is game two for her. Last week was virtually her first training session back and she played today so she’s still getting to know everybody, but she had a great game today.”
Gunners face the West Canberra Wanderers in Round 8, another challenging team that is rising high on the ladder and all Mills hopes for is no injuries so that trainings can focus on preparing for the upcoming game next weekend.
Although their current position doesn’t reflect it, Mills is satisfied with how Gungahlin is progressing through the season and can see the potential in them reaching the top four.
“You could argue, that’s three games without losing. You draw with a top team and lose to the top team by a goal, I don’t think it’s all disaster.”
Words: Sonia Emanuel