The Lionesses strong start to 2022 continued on Sunday, coming away with a 1-0 win over a determined Coventry United.
Heading into the game, the fixture was always going to be a tough one for City, with the Butts Park Arena finally welcoming United back, after their dramatic rescue from liquidation this month.
But it was also a day to remember for London City, with captain Harley Bennett making her 50th appearance as a Lioness.
From kick-off it was clear that United were using the noise of the home crowd to spur them on, as they attempted to penetrate an unflinching City backline.
Bennett and Carly Girasoli were able to nullify the Coventry attack, with the home side having little in the way of attacking solutions to them.
City kept possession well, dictating the play in typical fashion, and creating chances as a result.
The best chance of the first 45’ came from a nice interplay between attack and midfield, starting from Atlanta Primus, who squared it to Wiktoria Fronc, who spotted the run of Amy Rogers, who dragged it back for Jamie-Lee Napier.
Napier’s shot was saved by the United keeper, but it offered the home side a glimpse of the speed which City could move the ball around in the final third.
In the air, Girasoli proved a constant danger, with the best chance of the half falling to her at the back post, as she escaped her marker to get the header away, which sailed just over the crossbar.
In the second half, City kept probing, yet with Coventry now content to simply sit deep and absorb the pressure, the team had to use every inch of the pitch to create an opening.
Looping efforts from Mollie Rouse and Lucy Fitzgerald forced saves out of the Coventry keeper, but the clock was starting to tick down.
In such a demanding game, substitutions were always going to be key, and with just over 10 minutes left on the clock, it was the turn of Kenni Thompson to come on to try and help break the deadlock.
And, just a few minutes later, she did just that.
After a scramble in the box, the ball came to Primus, who played it into the feet of Thompson, who looked up, picked her spot, and guided the ball into the top corner, rooting the keeper to the spot.
A tense final few minutes ensued, but City held firm to take home all three points.
Speaking after the match, manager Melissa Phillips had this assessment of the game.
“We knew we had to come here and put in a determined and focused performance today and we did just that,” she said, “we expected that they were going to be tough to break down, so we just had to keep chipping away at them.
“We adjusted a few things about where we wanted to attack at halftime, and credit to the ones who came on and brought real energy and were ready for the moment.”
For Bennett, her and the rest of her teammates knew that this was always going to be a game where patience would be key.
“Coventry are a good side, regardless of where they are in the table,” she remarked, they’ve been really unlucky early on with the results that they had.
“So it was a tough game, and we had to be patient and work really hard to try and break them down and get in behind them”
Of course, that patience was rewarded in the end by Thompson’s late winner. And whilst the shot took the Coventry keeper by surprise, it was nothing new to Phillips.
“We know Kenni’s capable of scoring goals,” she said, “she's a lefty but smashed that one home on her right foot, and we see that week in and week out in training.
“That’s the same with everyone, it really is an unselfish team, with a team first mentality. Goals by committee is a result of that.”
But of course, in the history of London City, the game won’t just be remembered for the three points taken.
Bennett’s history making 50th appearance for the club has been a long time coming due to match delays, but it was worth the wait, with a SETL Player of the Match award topping off the day for her.
“It's a really special club and I feel really privileged to be in this team. Every day in training, we come in and work hard, and I feel very thankful to be a part of what we're trying to achieve,” said Bennett.
“We couldn’t do it without her,” added Phillips, “She's been massively impactful to the growth of the club, and it's a real testament to the way that she develops herself, alongside the growth of the club, So it’s a fantastic achievement for her.”
Next up for the Lionesses is perhaps their toughest test this season, away in the FA Cup to WSL leaders, Arsenal.
“Arsenal's a different test and a great opportunity for us to go stretch ourselves against the top Super League team right now,” said Phillips, “we’ll definitely take confidence out of the determination and the resilience in this performance heading into the game.”
London City take on Arsenal on Sunday the 30th of January. The game will be live on the FA Player and the BBC Red Button!