“It is a massive signing for the club” – Dean Perrett

Sunday will see Harlow Town Ladies welcome Royston Town Ladies to the Harlow Arena as both sides battle for the chance to make it through to the First Round Proper of the FA Women’s Cup. Ahead of the game, we spoke to manager Dean Perrett.

“I think it was a good draw for us and we are all looking forward to the game. We trained well on Wednesday but we know this isn’t going to be the same as the league game we played a couple of weeks ago. Both sides will battled right from the off and Lewis [Endacott] will come with a game-plan, looking to reverse the result from the league game.”

The Hawks had already faced Royston Town in the Eastern Region Women’s Football League, winning 5-1, with goals coming from Tayla Handscombe (scoring a brace), Georgia Raby, Ellie Manning and Amy Nash but despite already getting the better of his opposite number, the magic of the FA Cup would certainly play its part. “Both sides will go for it [with a huge prize at stake],” said Dean. “They will be coming into this game off the back of a win over Stevenage, a team in the league above. That will give them confidence and with the FA Cup, anything can happen. Royston are very good on their day but so are we, so it is going to be a battle but we are all looking forward to it.”

Ahead of the game, Harlow were boosted with the re-signing of Hannah Porter, following her time at Billericay. “It is a massive signing for the club. When I heard Hannah might be available, it was an easy conversation when speaking to Billericay. Lisa and Kim were superb and helped made the transfer quick and easy.”

“She is looking forward to being back as she knows many of the players who are still here. She brings so much experience to the squad and was an absolute rock at the back for us last season. She is also able to strengthen our midfield so all-round it is a great signing. She’s already trained with us and she was happy to be back.”

Harlow find themselves 6th after just 4-games, having won 2, drew 1 and lost 1. The season began with a narrow win over Peterborough Northern Star as Ash Deacon and Fran Gamble inspired a comeback before they beat Royston Town 5-1 at home. Their first loss of the season came against Wymondham Town as the Hawks lost 3-0 before goals from Tayla Handscombe, Fran Gamble and Ellie Manning salvaged a point for the Hawks late on against Wroxham at Trafford Park. Despite the mixed start, Dean was happy with how his team had started the season, especially with a target on their backs. “Compared to last season, when we started with a draw away to Wymondham before going on that winning run, that was fantastic but I couldn’t see that happening again unless Luton [Town] prove me wrong. It’s been a tough start with the fixtures we were given in the league and the draws we faced in the FA Cup. Our start to the season sends a message to players that this is an exciting league and one they shouldn’t be scared to come and play in. I knew every side would get stronger this season but I don’t think we have that target on our backs anymore [since our first loss]. We can focus on winning football matches because of that. The new players have also settled well since signing for the club so I’m pleased with how it has gone so far.”

Away from the league though, Harlow’s focus was firmly on the 3rd Qualifying Round tie this Sunday. “We started in the first round [the Extra Preliminary Round] and have already played against 3-fellow league sides. This is a great chance to get into the First Round Proper. As a manager, it’s the round you always want to reach from the beginning. One club from our league is guaranteed in the Proper Rounds which is great for the league. For the Town, it will be a step in the right direction and we hope to welcome a big crowd to cheer the ladies on.”

“If the girls get the win over the line, it will be great. The First Round Proper is narrowed to 12-ties [before more clubs enter] so we have the chance to face higher opposition. Just look at what Ipswich Town did last season. They went on to draw Manchester City Women and for us that would be a dream come true. We are just a little club but you never know with the FA Cup. Before we can dream of what’s to come, our full focus is on Royston!”