Lee Sanders has praised the ‘monumental’ performance that saw Durham claim a dramatic late point at Liverpool.
Beth Hepple’s stunning late finish saw the Wildcats come from behind to snatch a point at Prenton Park, despite being forced to play the final ten minutes with ten players due to injury.
“It was a really positive performance and we’re happy with the way we competed with Liverpool,” he said.
“There are things that we need to work on ourselves and that is a season-long project for us to ensure we keep improving as a team.
“We competed ever so well with Liverpool – and when I say compete, we weren’t dirty.
“We were physical, yes, but if that’s not allowed then why are we all involved?
“Our players are not without some cuts, bumps and bruises themselves after a fiercely contested battle – which is what you would expect from top level players.
“But we’ll never make that an excuse – win, lose or draw.
“We’re not here to let teams just dance round us and watch on as they have their own way because of some people’s sense of entitlement.
“It was a monumental achievement for the ten players to really press Liverpool into making that mistake and providing the opportunity for the quality finish at the end and it was a good point to take away.”
Durham had to deal with some late pressure from the Reds to see out the point – and matched the fitness levels of their full-time hosts throughout.
That, says Sanders, is a credit to the work done by the backroom staff and playing squad throughout their seven-month hiatus from competitive football.
“I’ve said it a few times over the last few months, but the medical, sports science, coaching and strength and conditioning staff have been absolutely unbelievable with the players,” added the Durham boss.
“What they did with the squad over lockdown was fantastic and you really couldn’t tell the difference in fitness levels between the two teams.
“That speaks volumes for our players and our staff – and truthfully, that’s the expectation we put on the players.
“They need to be in the best shape they can because this is a demanding league.”
The full-time whistle was met with passionate scenes among the travelling contingent, after a performance in which the growing dressing room morale was evident.
“The team spirit is fantastic,” explained Sanders.
“They really, really do compete for each other and why not celebrate? That squad of players work as hard as anyone else and put in as much as anybody else.
“We’re predominantly local players from the North East, aside from a couple, and we aren’t signing players from here, there and everywhere, and that’s part of what makes that spirit.
“I’m not going to discourage that in any way, shape or form.
“Teams have got to learn to deal with us, not the other way around, and I’m proud of the way they conducted themselves and their display.”
Now though, Sanders is keen to move on from that result – with his and the squad’s focus purely on the weekend visit of Lewes.
“We’ve been here before when we’ve had huge results against the so-called bigger teams, and then we let ourselves down,” admitted Sanders.
“The mentality this year is different. We’ve got quality all over the team and there’s probably more competition for places than there ever has been before.
“If that adds that little extra one or two per cent, then fantastic.
“I think we’ll be focused on the future. Liverpool is gone now, it’s out the window, and the focus is on Lewes.”