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Every game a big game - Natalie
 Women's Football News 24 Sep 2010
Every game a big game - Natalie - 24 Sep 2010 - Women's Football NewsIt has been an impressive start to the new season so far from West Ham Utd and captain Natalie Grafton is confident that her team can be serious Championship contenders in the Southern Division.
The Hammers sit on top of the table having won all of their opening three games and are yet to concede a goal in the league. After having drawn nine matches last season, Natalie says that the hard work put in during the summer is paying dividends.
"It's the best start we've had to a season," Natalie told Women's Soccer Scene. "We usually have a few draws and losses at this stage but now we have a stronger squad and have kept our performances going.
"At the end of last season, we could well have had a promotion place but the draws at the start of the season cost us. We know we let ourselves down by not being ready but if you want to be promoted, you have to battle from the start. Every game is a big game so we have got to go in with the right mindset each time."
The latest of those wins came on Sunday against Portsmouth, who are widely expected to be amongst the front runners. "It was a tight battle and it came down to who wanted it more," says Natalie. "We fought right to the last whistle and held out, whereas last season we might have conceded and drawn the game. To not concede a goal against Portsmouth is good.
"We know if we can get a goal, we can win the game. We defend from the forward line and are like a secure unit from the top, making it hard for other teams to break through us."
Natalie herself missed the match through injury but was full of praise for the team, particularly 16-year-old Danica Revell who made her debut in defence. "Danica came in at centre back and had a great game, she fitted in really well," she said. "Portsmouth are a high scoring team so we were all really pleased with her."
West Ham underwent a change of manager during the summer with long serving Julia Setford taking over and her start could not have been better. "Julia has been with the club for a long time and that helps, she knows it inside out," Natalie insists. "She brings experience, just from herself, and that helps the team."
The Southern Division is set to be a closely fought league and Natalie is fully aware that every result is likely to be an important one. "I think Charlton and Gillingham are probably our biggest rivals, but at least four or five teams have a great chance this year," she says. "Results went for us on Sunday so it's good to get that edge on the other teams from the start.
"It's the first time we have led the league since we joined and teams are looking at us now, they have to catch up with us, rather than the other way round. We go into each game, confident that knowing if we do our best, we can get the three points. We're improving all the time but so is everyone else, the league has come on a lot since we've been there."
Next up for the Hammers is a local derby against Charlton Athletic this Sunday. "It's going to be another big game," admits Natalie. "It will be tight but we are confident once again that we can get the right result. We've got to keep doing what we are doing and are looking forward to the match and hopefully picking up the points.
"We want to win the league and go up this year. We all believe it's our year and our time to do it. There are a number of young players coming through who have no fear and, with our more experienced players, there is a good overall balance to the squad.
"Emma Thomas has been a good addition; she has been a quality player who is so quick and powerful. She has added a lot to our squad but will also work very hard and do the basics. The defence has been great and so has Toni-Anne Wayne in goal, they give each other confidence and it spreads through the rest of the team.
"We are a team that has no stars, we're all in with each other and every player has an important role. We didn't sign any players from Super League clubs so we won't end up losing anyone during the course of the season and that will be a help.
"We always felt we had the ability to do well and it was mainly a case of proving ourselves, and with eleven players who help each other each week, we are confident that we can do that."

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