SAINTS Women’s coach Marieanne Spacey-Cale has told her players to learn from their St Mary’s debut.

Despite an excellent first-half performance, Saints Women were knocked out of the Women’s FA Cup after losing 4-1 to Coventry United, who play two tiers higher in the FA Women’s Championship.

But Spacey-Cale took huge encouragement from the record turnout and the 4,150 were rewarded with the goal of the match, a spectacular consolation strike from Rachel Panting.

She said: “This was always going to be a challenging game with the difference in the leagues but we probably won over a lot of support from the Southampton supporters “We owe a big thankyou to them for coming out and braving the rain. That was the biggest crowd of the weekend in the Women’s FA Cup. I’m proud of what the club have done to support us and the players gave everything on the pitch, which is all we could ask.

“The first half was really positive for us. Coventry have that Championship nous, they know how to play these type of games so for a young squad that’s been together for 18 months, I’m really proud of what they’ve done.

“The scoreline was tough for us but I’m so proud we got the goal which raised the spirits of the supporters.

“A scoreline is a scoreline and we’ll learn and grow from it but the experience of playing against [a Championship side] is what we want to be doing week in, week out. So now they’ve experienced it, training steps up.

“This was a big step for us in terms of understanding where we are and now it’s about how we go forward from this performance.

“We had some good chances and defended well at times.

“It was when we started to chase the game that gaps started to open up a bit, but we had to give everything to try to get back in the game,

“We won’t dissect the game in minute detail but will look at what worked really well for us and what we looked like when we played really well. That will help us know we can do to improve to ensure when we go up the levels we’ll be ready in all areas.”

Panting celebrated her strike, a stunning 25-yarder in injury time, with a knee-slide towards Spacey-Cale.

“She scores a few of those in training!” smiled the former England international.

“We were 4-0 down and she celebrated as if we were 1-0 up but I’m please because it shows how much it means to the players to be part of this club.

Saints Women lead division one south west of the Women’s National League and are next in action at Moneyfields tomorrow night, before a derby away to Portsmouth, at Baffins Milton Rovers FC in the National League Cup, this Sunday.

Spacey-Cale continued: “Now we have to push because our ambition is promotion. We’ll get the girls refocused as we have some really big games coming up in terms of the league and as well as a semi- final and a quarter-final.

“So we’re still in a lot of competitions and we all have to learn from today, staff and players alike.”

The record crowd included Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl and assistant coach Kelvin Davis.

“When Ralph announced to the squad that we were playing here they were absolutely delighted; very calm when he was in the room and very different when he left the room!

“It shows what this club’s about, it’s a real family club. It’s got a good feel.

We’re Southampton Football Club. Take the gender away, it’s Southampton Football Club. We’re one club, one family and we have one dream to be the best we can be.”