Skinner pleased with Reds' mental resilience
Manchester United Women head coach Marc Skinner was pleased with the spirit and resilience his side showed against Durham last night, after twice being pegged back before gaining an additional point thanks to a penalty-shootout victory.
United had taken the lead in the first half of the Continental Tyres League Cup tie thanks to Ivana Ferreira Fuso's first goal for the club, before Dee Bradley equalised just five minutes after the second-half restart.
Reds substitute Ella Toone then produced a moment of individual brilliance with just 15 minutes to go but a late free-kick from Beth Hepple ensured the game would then end in spot-kicks.
Skinner's side scored all five penalties, with Alessia Russo stepping up to ensure United gained an extra point in Group B after Becky Salicki had chipped wide with her effort for the hosts just moments before.
"I feel like we were challenged in many good ways, and it gives me so much to carry through and learn about the group, about how we are really," began Skinner as he spoke to club media following the 2-2 draw at Maiden Castle.
"The biggest thing for us was that we performed well in the game, but not particularly well in certain moments, so there are things we can definitely work on. What did please me was at the end when I asked them to refocus and get ready for the penalty shootout, and show the mental resilience needed.
"They got straight onto their task and they were perfect in that moment. We are never going to always be perfect, but we can have moments of it and I felt that in the penalty shootout we reset our minds and we were excellent in that very moment.
"What we asked of them, they delivered in that moment. I saw growth again. If you can get to the places we want to be as a team, where we want to win things, where we want to be in positions to win things, we have to challenge the psyche of our players. I asked them [to refocus] and they did that."
In what was a tricky evening in the North East, Durham were seemingly set from minute one on utilising their game plan of being effective from set pieces. The home side twice responded when going behind and Skinner insists that his team will do all they can in the coming weeks to further implement better game management when going ahead.
"We had moments in this game where we were excellent, and we had moments in the game where we were very naive. I think we can own up to that.
"All I’m asking from this group is to learn and grow and get better every single game we play. I felt there were moments in there where we are going to look back and admit okay we need to fix this. We will continue to do that and there were a lot of good aspects to learn from tonight."
The head coach also paid homage to the Reds supporters who travelled and made themselves heard in the sell-out crowd.
"I thought the fans were excellent," said Skinner.
"The fans really drew the ball into their net for us and tried to keep it out of ours with their positive energy.
"There were some great aspects to the game, and we'll learn and move forward and we’re going to be better in the next one."