Becky Langley delighted by Newcastle United Women's County Cup preparations
Written by Joseph Nelson
Newcastle United Women manager Becky Langley has described her side's friendly win over Nottingham Forest Women as "absolutely outstanding."
She was particularly impressed by the way her squad bounced back from the defeat in their previous practice match against Durham Cestria, and successfully applied the tactics they are working on in training.
"We defended well and caused a huge threat on the counter attack," said Langley. "There was definitely a reaction form the Cestria match and I am proud of the way we kept a clean sheet."
The fixture against Nottingham Forest Women was one of a number of friendlies that Langley and her staff have organised for the Lady Magpies since their season was curtailed in February. Despite the County Cup being the only remaining competition for Newcastle Women this season, Langley believes that the friendlies benefit her players' development hugely.
"Naturally friendlies can often lack competition, but the friendlies we have put in place give the girls something to prove," explained the Newcastle Women manager. "The girls know that in all of these fixtures they have to perform to the best of their ability to compete against the opposition. The players relish the opportunity to continue playing every week, particularly after lockdown.
"Friendlies also allow myself and my staff to work on strategies that we will implement in the cup games. I have been really impressed with the way in which the tactics that we worked on in training have been effectively implemented on match days."
It is clear that the friendlies are vital for the Lady Magpies' preparation for the County Cup, a competition that they won in the 2018/19 season and have a chance of retaining this season, as last year's competition was cancelled due to Covid-19. It has been argued that retention of a trophy is even more difficult than winning it in the first place, but Langley believes her side have the hunger and determination to avoid complacency.
"We need to make sure we don't take our position for granted," she asserted. "We reinforced the need to avoid complacency against Nottingham Forest on Sunday and constantly reiterate our high standards. At half time in our matches, we tell the players that if they think they have had a good game in the first half, they need to be fantastic in the second."
The match against Nottingham Forest Women was one of a number of games the Lady Magpies have played at Coach Lane, a facility belonging to Northumbria University. Langley outlined the importance of having professional facilities for her team, which are offered up through the University's ongoing partnership with the club.
She said: "It is vital that we have use of the pitch at Coach Lane, it is a really good surface. It gave us a professional edge that allowed us to reach the outstanding level of performance to beat Nottingham Forest Women. It is a venue that the girls are familiar with, as many of them are also students at Northumbria University."
The Lady Magpies manager added that she would "love to play more games at Coach Lane in the future." Whilst appreciating the outdoor facilities, Langley also highlighted her gratitude for the internal expertise that offered to her squad by Northumbria University.
"Northumbria University offer us performance analysis support, strength and conditioning and on-pitch sports science support, as well as behind-the-scenes sports science support," the Newcastle Women manager said. "Having experts in their field available to us is a great help."
Langley and her staff have set targets for the team to achieve by the end of the season, and she reiterated their intention to utilise the remaining friendlies to prepare for next season as efficiently as possible.
"Our main aim is to win the County Cup," Langley declared. "We also want to maintain as many clean sheets as possible in our remaining friendlies, and ensure that we are prepared for next season."
Moreover, Langley is looking forward to the upcoming campaign, having had two consecutive seasons disrupted - and eventually cancelled - due to Covid-19.
"We hope to get a run of uninterrupted games and build up momentum. We are desperate to showcase the hard work we have been doing over the last two years," she said.
"We are determined to push for promotion, and with victories like the match against Nottingham Forest Women, we have shown that we can compete with teams in the league above us. We are striving to make it happen."
Photograph courtesy of Colin Lock/@Tyneside_NUWFC
"At half time in our matches, we tell the players that if they think they have had a good game in the first half, they need to be fantastic in the second."