Limited preparation time is ‘reckless’ as Pompey return to action in Women’s FA Cup this weekend

Pompey manager Jay Sadler admits limited preparation time before their big Women's FA Cup second round tie with Cheltenham Ladies on Sunday is 'not ideal'.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 1:30 pm
Pompey Women return to action this weekend for the first time since December 12, aiming to extend their 100 per cent seasonal record at Westleigh Park in the FA Cup against Cheltenham. Photo by Dave Haines.

But he insists the players and management staff are doing all they can to ensure they are in the best possible shape for their long-awaited playing return.

Pompey Women were back in training this week for first time in more than 100 days as nationwide lockdown restrictions were eased.

Yet, having not played a competitive fixture since December 12, Sadler's side were given a total of just seven days before they return to action in the FA Cup against lower division Cheltenham at Westleigh Park.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Pompey manager Jay Sadler. Picture by Dave Haines.

Sadler conceded being provided with such a short timeframe to get his players' ready for the cup tie seems quite 'reckless'.

But he added the overriding feeling within the squad is one of relief that they can finally return, having gone almost four months without a fixture.

‘The bigger picture is when you look at it with no emotion involved, you could deem it quite reckless that we’ve been out for 100-plus days and we’ve been given five days to prepare for an FA Cup game,’ said Sadler.

‘It is questionable whether it is the right thing for the players and the welfare of the players.

‘However, I’m the first one to say I’ve been banging the drum to get us back involved, so as soon as we heard about the league curtailment I was gutted - this was the shining light and the one thing we could grasp and hold onto.

‘It is what is, the timing around it is not ideal, but at the end of the day we’ve got to make it work.

‘We’re looking at the positives, it’s a game of football, a competitive game, we’re looking forward to the game and we’ve put a lot of time and effort into the preparation to make sure we’ve given the girls the correct platform to go and perform but stay injury-free, which is crucial.'

Cheltenham play in the fourth tier of women’s football - one level below Pompey - in National Division 1 South West.

They won two and lost two of their five league games in 2020/21 and last played when they beat divisional rivals Exeter City on penalties in the FA Cup in December.

Sadler, meanwhile, said the first priority will be making sure the welfare of his players is not put at risk with so little time to get the squad back up to speed.

Pompey will have had three training sessions prior to Sunday's showdown at Westleigh Park, where they have a 100 per cent record in the Southern Premier League in 2020/21 – scoring 16 goals in four matches.

And Sadler praised his squad for the 'professionalism' they've shown after returning for their first group session on Monday in great shape.

He said: 'The players have come back fit anyway, they’re such professional players, and they’re an absolute credit to themselves and the team.

‘It was 101 days since we were last in training - that’s how long we were out for - now we’ve got five days to prepare for a competitive game. You lose and your competitive season is over, but you win and the potential opportunities within this cup competition are massive.

‘It is quite difficult to keep your feet on the ground and stay focused on one game.

If Pompey can beat Cheltenham, they will host either Crawley Wasps or Gillingham - both from the same division as themselves - at Westleigh Park on Sunday, April 11.

The winners of that tie will then travel to Boreham Wood FC on April 18 to face Super League club Arsenal, who have won the Women’s FA Cup 14 times - more than any other club in the competition’s history.