Lionesses claimed a creditable point on the road against title-chasers Sheffield United.

A dominant performance by the Lionesses perhaps deserved all three points in a game that saw the Blades lose more ground in the FA Women's Championship title race. There were chances at either end but neither side could find the breakthrough as both goalkeepers kept a clean sheet by put in superb displays.

Photography credit to Joe Hepper / SPP

A dominant performance by the Lionesses perhaps deserved all three points in a game that saw the Blades lose more ground in the FA Women's Championship title race. There were chances at either end but neither side could find the breakthrough as both goalkeepers kept a clean sheet by put in superb displays.


KEY MOMENTS:

A strong save in the early minutes by Lionesses keeper Shae Yanez from Rhema Lord-Mears header instilled confidence in the Lionesses defence. In a quiet first half, Lionesses’ Lily Agg had the best chance in the 32nd minute when she was picked out by captain Harley Bennett’s cross but sent her header just wide of the post.


The Lionesses carried the momentum from the end of the first half into the second forty five, playing some eye-catching football. Agg was the standout player of the game, industrious in central midfield and capable of delivering a defence-splitting pass, and she nearly broke the deadlock just after the hour from a curling free-kick that flew just wide of Fran Kitching’s left post. The Lionesses were dominating and in the 70th minute, Agg played a slide-rule pass to Atlanta Primus and with only the keeper to beat, agonisingly she pulled her shot wide.


5 minutes later the Lionesses had another great opportunity to break the deadlock with substitute Liz Ejupi almost converting her chance. Sheffield rallied in the closing stages but just before the end Lionesses Ejupi played in Agg, who was denied by a diving stop from keeper Kitching.


As goalless draws go, this was a good one and contained plenty of positives for a Lionesses side aiming to climb the table as they continue to develop under Head Coach Mel Phillips’ guidance.


MOMENT OF THE MATCH

The Lionesses almost walked away with the deserved 3 points when Agg’s bullet strike but was denied by a fine save by Fran Kitching.


HEAD COACH’S REACTION

Speaking on the Lionesses’ progression and development since taking over as Head Coach Phillips reflected on whether the Lionesses should be higher in the table, she said “I’m really pleased with the way the team has progressed in the past two months. We’ve really established an identity. But the thing that makes us tick is the belief we have in our identity and the belief in each other and I think that was apparent on the field.


“You can see they can weather a storm. They can fight the fight, but they also have a bit of savviness to them. Our performances are built around effort and attitude and that’s always going to lead us to success”.


With the Lionesses displaying point winning performances against the top Championship sides, what does Phillips think the target should be for the rest of the season?


“The target is to grow every single day and challenge ourselves to make sure that we’re competitive in every match. We give ourselves the best opportunity by how we prepare for matches and with performances like this one we will continue to earn our points, climbing the table as high as we can”.


PLAYERS REACTION

London City Lionesses left-back Leanne Cowan said: “I think we had to weather the storm a bit and grow into the game but once we did, we created some chances against a good team. We are happy with a point but disappointed not to get all three. We just have to get a bit more clinical. The fact that we’re creating chances like that against a top side like Sheffield United is really good to see."


“It was about having a strong start to the game and not conceding an early goal so we could give ourselves a chance to actually get our foot on the ball and start to play football. If you put yourself in a position where you are chasing the game from an early stage, you start to panic on the ball, so once we relaxed and started playing extra touches and connected with each other we really showcased what we can do. At times, I think we really took hold of the game today.”


After a defeat at the start of the season playing against opposition like Sheffield United who are challenging for the Championship title is motivating Cowan and her Lioness team mates.


“We played well against Liverpool last week. We were unlucky to come away with a defeat in that game. So, to do it back-to-back against two top sides who are going to be fighting for promotion it’s really pleasing to see. If we can perform like that against the top opposition in the league, who’s to say we can’t go and do it week in week out and really start to pick up points”.


The strength and confidence in the performance is starting to send a message to other teams in the league, Cowan said “Now that we are performing consistently and playing the football that we need to play to compete against these teams. I just think it shows, we are a force to be reckoned with when we get playing and we just have to keep building and getting better every game”.


The Lionesses now take a rest from league action as the FA Women’s Championship takes its mid-season break. The new year starts a home fixture against Crystal Palace on Sun 10th January, followed by a trip to The Hive to face London Bees the following weekend.


Setl Player of the Match: Lily Agg


Sheffield United (4-3-3): Fran Kitching; Veatriki Sarri, Leandra Little, Naomi Hartley, Chloe Dixon; Rhema Lord-Mears, Kasia Lipka, Maddy Cusack; Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, Katie Wilkinson, Jade Pennock.


Substitutes: Keri Matthews for Lord-Mears 56, Lucy Watson for Sweetman-Kirk 86, Sophie Walton for Pennock 89


Substitutes not used: Becky Flaherty, Emily Batty, Natalie Johnson, Charley Docherty, Melissa Johnson.


London City Lionesses (4-5-1): Shae Yanez; Chantelle Mackie, Harley Bennett, Hannah Short, Leanne Cowan; Juliette Kemppi, Lily Agg, Hayley Nolan, Alli Murphy, Lucy Fitzgerald; Atlanta Primus.

Substitutes: Elizabeta Ejupi for Fitzgerald 58; Annie Rossiter for Kemppi 86


Substitutes not used: Hope Smith, Poppy Wilson, Ylenia Priest, Grace Neville, Ellie Mason, Flo Fyfe, Lily Pursey.


Bookings: Ejupi 90+1


Referee: Robert Massey-Ellis

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