Sunday sees the Lionesses return to Princes Park to take on Durham, as they continue the push for promotion.
The match comes after London City put in a determined performance against Arsenal in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup, where they were eventually defeated 1-0.
When asked about her thoughts on the team’s performance, manager Melissa Phillips was full of praise for her squad:
“I’m really proud of the effort, determination and organisation of our players,” said Phillips, “we wanted to compete with a team sitting at the top of the WSL, and arguably one of the best teams in England at the moment, and I think we stood the test. It's fantastic to see the way that we performed against their full-strength squad.”
“We wanted to see where Arsenal stretched us in and out of possession. Obviously, we've not been in a situation very often this year where we've had to sit in and operate from being pinned into our half.
“So, I think, the way that we limited their time and central areas, along with a lot of their wide play, are a couple big takeaways in the game.”
For Jamie-Lee Napier, playing in the forward line against such a steadfast team, was going to be a tough test, but such challenges represent her own, and the clubs, ambitions.
“We want to compete at the highest level,” said Napier, “and so games against Arsenal, the top team in the WSL, are the ones you want to be playing.
“It was a challenge for us, as we're not used to being out of position for such large spells, but I think the way we conducted ourselves, and the performance we put in, is something we can take a lot of pride from, and we’ve come away with our heads held high.”
The performance will certainly help keep the levels of belief high in the City dressing room, as will the presence of two new arrivals, Katie Kitching and Shanade Hopcroft.
But just what can fans expect from the two new signings?
“I think fans can expect to see passion from both of them,” remarked Phillips, “they're both very competitive players that play with a lot of heart and determination, and then they've got skill and quality both in and out of possession that will really add value to our current squad, which is already very strong.
“They're both young hungry players who want to come and make their mark back in England after their time away, so it's fantastic to be able to welcome them to London City.”
For Jamie-Lee, the ambition from both of them that she’s seen already, has already helped them integrate with the rest of the squad.
“Both Katie and Shanade share the same ambition and goals as me, the other players, and staff, and you can see in training, the level of competitiveness just went up another level, and that’s only going to help get the best out of us as players.
“But I'm just really looking forward to seeing how they progress in this team and hopefully we can help push each other to get to that next step,” said Napier.
For players, both old and new, their attention is now fully on this Sunday’s clash with Durham. A tight 1-0 defeat away to them at the end of October was another learning curve for the Lionesses.
Yet it will be the lessons learned away at Arsenal that will be most prevalent for this Sunday.
“The speed in which we were counter pressed by Arsenal, for example, was something that we hadn’t experienced this year,” said Phillips, “so that’s definitely something we can take away and learn from.”
“But as we do every week, we’ll stay focused on our game plan and we’ll add some layers to it from what we've learned over the last week, and really look to exploit Durham in different ways this weekend.”
However, exploiting a team like Durham will be no easy task for the Lionesses, but for Napier, she can’t wait to get back out on the pitch at Princes Park and show them how much the side has grown.
“Since the last clash with them, I think we've grown so much as a team, and even though they’re a tough physical side, we know we can play our game and get the result against them,” remarked Napier.
“But we just take each game as it comes, and we're all really looking forward to a real test on Sunday against them. And having our fans there, who’ve been so important for us this season, will certainly help give us that extra boost.”
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