Manchester Futsal Women’s Club head coach Abdallah Mohamed heaped praise on his team after they just missed out on finishing second in the regional stages of the FA Futsal Cup.
Chester le Street and Norton and Stockton finished first and second in the solitary North qualifying group, after one side’s late withdrawal meant the two groups were merged and all teams had to play six 25-minute games with no halfway intervals.
Despite a fantastic start which saw them take nine points from three games, Manchester’s overall record of four wins and two defeats was not quite enough to see them through as they lost out on their head-to-head record with Norton and Stockton.
And although Mohamed was unhappy with the organisation of the tournament, he was delighted with the workrate and spirit shown by his side overall, and felt they could have gone on to win had they been able to continue their dazzling early form.
“We were really unlucky with how it turned out at the end, as all the girls really put a shift in throughout the day,” he said.
“Looking around, I thought we were the best team. All the players worked hard for each other and were amazing throughout.”
On the format of the contest itself, he added: “The whole thing was changed only 24 hours earlier. We had prepared to play three games, with a possible fourth if we got through, and altering everything did affect us.
“We were told on the day that no team would be playing back to back, but we then we ended up playing four games on the trot with very short breaks between them. That’s 100 minutes of futsal, with 10 minutes break at the most after every 25 minutes of play, which just shows how unorganised it was.
“It's no coincidence that the two teams that went through didn't have to play back to back.
“If we had stuck to the original plan, or as close as possible to it with seven teams rather than eight, we could have gone through.
“I think it was a mess and this really needs to be addressed, as it is not fair to anyone at all.
“We were all gutted not to go through and my players deserved to reach the next round.”
But Mohamed is keen to take the positives from Manchester’s performances into their final run of league fixtures.
Pivots Lauren Beckford and Celeste Gardner scored six and five goals respectively, while newcomer Felicity Middleton scored four overall and proved to be a strong addition to the squad.
With another local derby against Liverbirds approaching, Mohamed knows they must deliver as they enter the business end of the season.
“I can’t express how delighted I am to coach this group of girls, who are all committed to making a name for themselves and doing the club proud,” he said.
“I think they should all feel proud of what they have achieved together over the last few months.
“Now it’s about keeping up the good work and continuing to improve throughout the rest of the season.”
Mohamed’s thoughts on each game:
Manchester 5-1 Liverbirds
"This was the perfect result to kick off the competition. I've been telling the girls how important it is to make a good start and to create your own luck, and it paid off as we had it wrapped up by the halfway point and were in total control throughout. It was Felicity Middleton’s first game for the club and she really made an impact. She added that extra quality and energy into the squad, and improved with each minute we played. I was really impressed by her whole contribution."
Manchester 3-1 Liverpool
"After making such a great start against Liverbirds, we came out of the blocks a little slowly this time around. However, the girls really pushed themselves that extra bit and came out with a really important result; it's one of the areas we used to struggle in, so it was great to see. They showed a lot of character to get that win at the end and were the team more determined to finish on top."
Manchester 2-1 Chester le Street
"We spoke briefly before the game and knew we had to be strong throughout, but particularly when we were in the lead, and we did that superbly. Ana Marques was outstanding – she delivered when we needed her the most and kept us in the game with some stunning saves. Carol Agostinho did what she does best too – controlling the game from the back and making sure everyone was organised."
Manchester 0-4 NUFC Kicks
"We gifted them a couple of early goals and from then on we had a mountain to climb. They had good individual players but I think we were really poor compared to the first three games. We didn't get the momentum we needed and everything went sideways. A few girls were starting to slow down and it just shows how important it is to get an early lead, especially in a cup game."
Manchester 1-4 Norton and Stockton
"It is difficult to really bounce back after performing below-par beforehand, but the girls were up for it and were unfortunate in my opinion; I didn’t think the referee had a particularly good game either. I think we were unlucky here in a game which could have gone either way."
Manchester 5-4 Durham
"Lauren Beckford came to light in our final game and put in an inspiring performance. She really lifted the team – her and Celeste Gardner linked up brilliantly throughout the tournament – and we were in full control to begin with. But Durham fought their way back into it, which shows the importance of game management and how quickly the momentum can shift. Ana was frustrated during the final few minutes and she made a mistake, but it’s all part of her learning curve – she will bounce back from it."