BARNSLEY FC women will move on quickly from their cup final defeat at the weekend and look to build on their promotion with the ultimate long-term aim of reaching the second tier of English women’s football.

The Reds were beaten 2-1 in the North East Regional League Cup final by Sunderland under 23s, the last game of a successful season.

They missed out on a double having already won their league title and gained a second successive promotion to the fourth tier which is the lowest rung of the professional ladder.

Coach Jess Horsley said: “I speak to Julie Anne (Quay, director) and Jon (Flatman, chief executive) on a regular basis.

“They are aiming for the Championship.

“It’s only a couple of leagues away but a massive distance and it’s so hard to get there. But that’s what the club is working towards.

“Every step up in women’s football is a big one. There are only five or six players left in our squad from last season, and only three in the starting 11.

“There might be a lot of changes again. We will have a recruitment drive.

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“Players are attracted to the fact that we have strength and conditioning coaches, analysis sessions, kit staff, coaches to games, we play on Oakwell sometimes – it’s all a professional set-up.

“As we go up leagues, players will be paid. That’s out of my control, and down to the club.”

The Reds went 2-0 down in the final at Norton and Stockton before Amy Dawson’s late consolation. The result ended a run of ten straight wins.

Horsley said: “It was always going to be tough.

“I think we were technically a bit better than them but they were younger, fitter and faster.

“They got in our faces from the first seconds and we struggled with that a lot. We didn’t have time to play on the ball. In the second half, we were a bit better but we hit the bar with a big chance.

“They got a second and we left it too late to get one back.

“Sunderland deserved the win. They are really good.

“They are in the division below but they are more of the standard of the league we’ll be going into next season so it was a big eye-opener.”

Horsley played in goal due to an injury to teenager stopper Ashleigh Ridsdell-Harrison.

Horsley said: “If we had Ash in goal it could have made a difference, especially with the second goal.

“A ‘keeper who had played all season would have made a difference compared to somebody who hasn’t had a training session.”

Horsley is thrilled with the season in general.

She said: “We’ve achieved more than anybody expected us to.

“We have proved a lot of people wrong. A lot expected us to fail in this league.

“That is massive credit to the girls who have done themselves proud.

“We won the league which is the main thing. The cup final would have been the cherry on the cake.

“The girls are still in high spirits. We’ll just move on.”