Lewes FC interim boss Craig Gill was all praise to his troops following the 2-0 win over Sunderland on Sunday, in which the Rooks were forced to play for half an hour with 10 players against 11.
First-half goals from Izzy Dalton and Ellie Mason had Lewes two up by the break but a Freda Ayisi second yellow on 54 minutes meant the hosts had to stay disciplined to see out the result.
The game eventually ended with 10 players apiece after Grace McCatty was shown a straight red for the visitors with six minutes remaining.
And Gill was delighted with how his side kept their nerve for so long despite the numerical disadvantage.
“It showed the resilience we have as a group, especially after going down to 10 players, where they came at us a little bit more,” said the boss.
“We were under more pressure – but to keep that discipline and shape, to remain compact and not concede, it speaks volumes for the players. They really are a close-knit group and they work hard for each other. I’m delighted for all of them.”
‘We were getting so much success in wide areas’
Gill opted not to replace lone striker Ayisi when she was dismissed, and instead ordered his players to maintain the pressure on Sunderland down the wings.
“When we realised Freda was coming off, I decided to go without a centre-forward,” he said.
“We could quite easily have put another centre-forward on and gone 4-4-1 but I decided that the best form of attack was defence this time, and we went 4-5-0 without a striker.
“That was because we were getting so much success in wide areas from Paula and Lucy, and with the full-backs as well from Sophie and Ellie, I asked them to just attack through wide areas.
“We were able to keep that bank of four with a bank of five in front to be compact. When we did attack centrally I asked Amelia to go forward in the false nine – and thankfully it paid off.”
‘Tough game’ ahead vs Palace
Next up for Lewes is a trip to Crystal Palace on Sunday 30 January. And it is a chance for Gill to face a team his Rooks side have already played under his tenure.
“I think Palace was my first game, in the Conti Cup,” he added.
“They’ve had a good run of late even though they lost to Liverpool today. They’ll be bouncing back and will be back on track – so we’re expecting a tough game next week.
“But if the girls apply themselves with the quality, discipline and energy that they showed today then I’m sure it will be a close-run encounter.”