After two weeks off with the international break, the London City Lionesses are finally back in action, taking on Ashford Town in the third round of the Women’s FA Cup.
Of course, two weeks off is a long time in football, so how did London City use this period?
Speaking ahead of this Sunday’s match, manager Melissa Phillips spoke of the importance of using the time to fully rest and recover from the previous round of fixtures.
“We took some time to rest and recover and allow the bodies and minds to refresh,” Phillips said, “and then we got back to work after reflecting on what happened in the most recent stretch of games.
“We then had some time to bond as a team and grow mentally stronger together, as well, as we knew that November was a really important stretch of games. We want to go into the new year as we've started the season and put in a really strong performance.”
Yet the team faced a tough test in the form of Charlton before the international break, losing 2-0 on the road in a hard-fought London derby.
“A lot of lessons came out of the Charlton game,” remarked Phillips, “looking at our ability to refine our attack, break pressure and recognize moments when teams are presenting different problems to us, credit to Charlton who really presented a problem with their press and their grittiness through the middle third of the field.
“There wasn't a lot in the game apart from the two goals and unfortunately that wrote the story. I don't think we were nearly at our best on the day, and we know we're capable of a much better performance.”
The final few games of 2021 present a challenge for Philips and her coaching staff though, as they look to balance three games in three different competitions in seven days. Yet it is clear that the league is always the priority.
“Everything that we do this week with the three matches will be in preparation for the league matches,” said Phillips.
“We have an opportunity with the Conti Cup game to play another Super League team, and really stretch ourselves. With the FA Cup, you never know what can happen.”
For Phillips, the quality that runs throughout the squad is something that will without doubt ease the burden on the players for those final games of the year.
“We have so much strength in the depth of our squad, so we know we will be able to compete and perform across the three matches.
“We're all focused on that and the preparation by the players has been great in training, so we're really looking forward to the opportunities that we have over the next week”
However, there will be a very different feel to the game this weekend, with the team donning the famous rainbow laces in support of Stonewalls campaign.
“I think it’s been great to see a lot of different messages of support about the rainbow laces,” remarked Phillips, “with names such as Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool speaking with some of their players the importance of the campaign.”
“At London City we value diversity, and we value inclusivity, and they’re some of the founding missions of the club, with our chairwoman Diane Culligan.
“It’s a great opportunity to represent that football is for everyone over the coming weeks, this includes the growth of women's football and the direction that the game is moving. Everything that we can do to celebrate the efforts of the women that are driving the game forward.”
London City Lionesses are back in action at Princes Park on Wednesday the 15th of December when they take on Birmingham City in the Continental Cup! Click the link to get your tickets now!