This Sunday see’s the London City Lionesses aiming to make it two wins from two in the new year, as they get ready to face Coventry United at Butts Park.
Last Sunday was the perfect way to get back into the swing of Championship football, as the Lionesses ran out 3-1 winners against Sunderland A.F.C Ladies, with goals from Atlanta Primus, Karin Muya and Amy Rodgers ensuring that all three points stayed at Princes Park.
Speaking ahead of the match against Coventry this weekend, manager Melissa Phillips had this to say on the weekend’s performance.
“It was a good performance from us after being off for so long,” said Phillips, “we were able to execute a lot of the things we worked on.
“We scored some really great goals in the run of play from three different goal scorers, so a lot of positives to take from it.”
Yet one of the main positives was the return of Alli Murphy-Palisch, Lily Agg and Haley Nolan to the match day squad.
“If you look at all three of those players,” remarked Phillips, “they were all marquee players in our line-up throughout last season.
“They call themself new recruits in this January transfer window, which they certainly are. And credit to them for being so diligent in their rehab process to make sure they hit the ground running when they're back in the squad and able to impact immediately.”
The game was also another chance for the SETL Player of the Match, Charlotte Fleming, to show her quality. For captain Harley Bennett, Fleming’s performance was nothing out of the ordinary.
“Charlotte is a great player,” said Bennett, “you see her coming over from one side of the pitch to recognize where the danger is and protect us.
“It really just allows us to stay compact as a back four and she's such a huge part of why we've been successful. She’s a young player and she's got lots of years ahead of her, so I'm very excited to see her develop.”
In the attacking side of the game, the team have also really started hitting their stride, netting 11 goals in their last three games.
“We definitely create a lot throughout matches. It's just before we’ve been a bit unlucky in our finishing, but we definitely created a lot of opportunities throughout the matches and put ourselves in a really good position to score goals.”
“We’re always looking to add things to our attacking style that allows us to go implement and execute on the weekend, and it’s also a credit to the players for always being hungry to grow and improve their game,” said Phillips.
On the defending front, the team has been equally consistent, having the second-best defensive record in the league.
“In training we do a lot of attacking and defending as a unit where we work together in preventing goals,” said Bennett.
“Personally, I've progressed massively under Mel and the coaching staff. Plus, we’ve got a really good number four in front of us and a great keeper behind us!”
The Lionesses are going to need to be at their best though this weekend, when they face a Coventry United side with more than a point to prove in this second half of the season.
Plunged into financial turmoil two days before Christmas, the club were saved at the 11th hour from completely folding. Yet, the ten point dedication handed to them by the FA has taken a heavy toll on the clubs hopes of avoiding relegation.
“It's fantastic to see that there's been investment coming in to save the club,” said Phillips, “and no matter who you play in the table, it's going to be competitive throughout any match in the Women's Championship.
“But their backs are up against the wall and that emotional element always adds something too, let alone the fact that they’re also in a relegation battle, so they're going to be chasing every possible point.”
“They'll be a tough opposition on Sunday but they're always a strong opponent. So, we know we have to match their physicality, and find ways to still control the tempo of the game.”
However, regardless of the result, the game will hold special significance for Bennett, as she makes her 50th appearance for the London City Lionesses.
“As a player, it’s always nice to hit certain checkpoints throughout your career. Me and Mel spoke about it leading up to the Bristol City game, and then obviously we had a few postponements.
“So, it's given me a chance to reflect on my time at London City. It's been a fantastic journey to still be a part of it and see how far the club has come in those three years, and on a personal level, it's really nice to have got 50 caps for the club.”
Bennett went on to add: “The reason I joined the club was because of its ambitions and you can see how we've gone from strength to strength, and we've got a really strong identity. And hopefully it's going to get us to where we want to be.”
The Lionesses next home game is against Durham on the 6th of February! Click the link to book your tickets now!