W-League: Glory coach hopes more records tumble

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Perth Glory set a new club record last weekend in what coach Jamie Harnwell hopes is the first of many more to come this season.

Last Saturday’s 3-1 win over Adelaide United at Ashfield Sports Club was Glory’s third straight victory from as many games this season, guaranteeing the perennial strugglers their best ever start to a Westfield W-League campaign.

Glory has qualified for the finals just once (2012-13) in six previous seasons of the W-League, but Harnwell’s side – currently second on the table – is now one of the favourites to take out this season’s title on the back of their unbeaten start.

“Football is very quick to knock you back down again so you’ve got to enjoy your achievements while they happen,” Harnwell told The Football Sack.

“The group and the coaching staff have set our sights on a bigger goal this season and while it’s great to be in the record books for winning your first three, we could be in the record books for so much more this season.

“While we’re enjoying what we’ve done so far, we know there’s plenty more to get done.”

Harnwell is no stranger to success. The former Perth defender twice tasted the ultimate glory early last decade in the now-defunct National Soccer League and is now in his fourth season in charge of the women’s side.

The 37-year-old spent the first half of his playing career in a team accustomed to winning and he is now looking to instil that belief into a youthful squad yet to experience prolonged periods of victory.

“I always prefer being the favourites rather than being the underdogs because I think it’s a measure of the respect that’s given when you’re doing well,” he said.

“The hard thing is that you’ve got to continue to do well and you’ve got to continue to set your standards high and we’ll be speaking about that with the team to ensure they do live up to those standards.

“I’m much happier being the favourite going into games than being rank outsiders.”

Harnwell said he was pleased with all aspects of his team’s performance in the first three games of the season, but singled out the defence as both a shining light and an area with plenty of room for improvement.

New signings Alanna Kennedy and Shelina Zadorsky have looked at home together as a centre back combination alongside youngsters Sarah Carroll and Bronwyn Studman, although the team has conceded a goal in each of the three games.

“I’ve been really pleased with the defensive resilience we’ve shown at times and although we haven’t kept a clean sheet yet, we’ve really looked solid down back,” Harnwell said.

“The goal that was scored against us on the weekend, for instance, was an absolute cracker and I don’t think anyone could have expected it or tried to stop it.

“As an ex-defender, I always want to keep clean sheets and shut teams out of games and I think we’ve still got a tendency to let teams back into games so that’s something we’ll continue to work on.

“If we’re on top and we’re doing well, we need to grind teams out and make sure they’ve got no chance of coming back. I don’t think we’ve quite done that yet.”

Harnwell was equally pleased with his new attacking formation, headlined by Matildas regulars Kate Gill and Sam Kerr and ably supported by the likes of Caitlin Foord, Marianna Tabian, Elisa D’Ovidio and captain Collette McCallum.

“If we can take half of (the chances) we create, we’re going to give another team a hiding in one game soon,” he said.

Harnwell said the competition for spots had also contributed towards Glory’s early season success.

The versatile Shannon May, a former Most Glorious Player award winner, only managed her first appearance off the bench in last Saturday’s win due to the enhanced strength of the squad this season.

“We’ve got 20 players competing for 11 spots, which we’ve probably never had before in our history,” he said.

“There’s a real competitiveness there, but they’re also enjoying each other’s company and it’s a good place to be around.

“We’ve got a really great bunch of girls and the players who have come in have fitted in seamlessly and added to the culture of our team.”

Harnwell admitted even he had to keep his emotions in check and temper his expectations after such a promising start to the season, but he insisted his team would not get ahead of themselves with crucial games against fellow title contenders Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory and Canberra United to come in the next month.

Glory takes on last-ranked Western Sydney Wanderers at Marconi Stadium this Sunday, but Harnwell warned it would be no walk in the park.

“It is a danger game,” Harnwell said.

“They’ve got some terrific young talent and some good internationals, but the fact they haven’t won a game yet doesn’t mean they’re not going to win any this season.”

The winless Wanderers have conceded 11 goals in their first three games while only scoring four of their own.

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