Lee Sanders was full of praise for his Durham Women players and stated the need to replicate their performance against Chelsea in their final five league fixtures.
The Wildcats are still in the thick of the FA Women’s Championship promotion race, and will require a strong end to the season in order to seal promotion to the top tier of women’s football.
And a proud Sanders believes the performance against the reigning champions should act as a marker for five crucial fixtures.
“I’m extremely proud,” he admitted, after the narrow 1-0 defeat to the Blues.
“That’s in terms of how they conducted themselves in the build-up to the game, which involves a lot more media coverage, and obviously on the day from the playing perspective.
“I thought they carried out what we wanted them to do immensely well in the first half, and then i made a change 2nd half and they really took the game to Chelsea and were unlucky not to take it into extra time.
“If you look at it overall, we’ve really set a marker for ourselves and for the remaining games of the league season.”
Chelsea brought a side packed with international quality to New Ferens Park for the SSE Women’s FA Cup clash, with Sanders relishing the chance for his players to test themselves against some of the best the women’s game has to offer.
“I said to Emma Hayes after the game that the one thing that was really pleasing what the squad that she turned out,” he added
“I would like to think that shows that they have given us the respect that we deserve in terms of us being capable of getting a result.
“But also, it’s a really great experience for the players to challenge themselves against some of the players and names that were out there.
“Even if you look at the players who came off the bench, Ramona Bachmann for example, it’s fantastic for our players to come up against them.
“The goal is for us to be coming up against them week in, week out.”
And that goal could become a reality, with Durham still in contention for promotion to the top flight come the end of the current campaign,
Should that be achieved, Sanders believes his side have proved that they can compete at the highest level.
“We won’t get carried away because we know over the course of the season it’s different, coming up against teams like that,” he admitted.
“If you had to play Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea every week it would be difficult.
“But going full-time allows you to physically develop a lot more and you would get used to playing that level of competition on a regular basis.
“You just have to look at our results. When we played Reading, the scoreline probably doesn’t reflect what the game was like – especially in the second half.
“We ran Reading close and we might have had a second penalty and the game changes”
“We’ve beaten Everton, we’ve drawn with Liverpool and should have won that game and we’ve beaten Bristol City and were really good value for that win.
“Now we’ve competed with arguably the best squad in the country at the moment and one of the best in Europe.
“I think we’ve proven this season that with the squad of players we have got, yes it will take some additions in terms of giving us some added quality and strength in depth, we’ve proven we can compete.”