Last weekend saw London City make it two wins out of two in the Women’s Championship, but can they make it a hat-trick this weekend?
The Lionesses dream start to the 2021/22 campaign continued as they triumphed 2-1 over Crystal Palace, but this Sunday a very different challenge faces the Pride as they take on Lewes LFC.
Starting their campaign last weekend with a 2-1 defeat to Bristol City will see Lewes fired up to put in a performance for their home fans for the first time this season.
But manager Melissa Phillips is well aware of the challenge The Rooks will pose to the Pride this Sunday.
“Lewes has a very well-organised group. When we played them both times last year it was a difficult matchup because they're organised out of possession. They’re very disciplined within their roles and we expect the same based on what we've seen from them in an early season and pre-season this year.
We know it'll be a challenge for us to break them down and to be as equally organised ourselves. We are all looking forward to that opportunity.”
Yet the game will hold a special significance for last weekend’s SETL Player of the Match, Mollie Rouse, as she returns to her old stomping ground, The Dripping Pan, for the first time as a Lioness.
“It's a weird feeling going there as the opposition now, instead of the home team. I never actually experienced it during the time when fans were allowed in, so it'll be interesting to see what their home crowds like, as I heard they’re quite loud.
“But yeah, it's important to stay professional when you're against an old club. And yeah, it's just about getting the result we want, and bringing the confidence we've had from those past two games into the game on Sunday.”
Yet despite the confidence the start to the season has brought to Princes’ Park, Phillips knows just how important it is to keep the focus, week in and week out.
“Of course, the girls are excited about our start to the season right now, but they know that you're only as good as your next opportunity. And so, we've got a bit of a belief bank in terms of all the experiences that we've built up so far that we need to continue to add to.
We know the importance of coming to training every day focused, ready to go, while preparing ourselves accordingly for each new challenge. We will make sure we are on task for the match ahead of the weekend then we put ourselves in the best position to perform.”
The Pride’s remarkable start to the campaign can be put down to many things, yet for Rouse the secret is just the environment around the team itself.
“Obviously, it's been a really exciting start to the season so far, two sets of three points, is what you dream of when you first start in the season. And I think it comes down to us being so together as a team and grinding the points out by working together.
We're just building confidence each week by taking it game by game. And we’re loving every minute and I think credit to the girls because we've come together in such a short space of time and got those results early on.”
Yet Rouse's role within the team, slotting seamlessly into the heart of the Lionesses midfield to help find space with her effortless passing, has certainly helped contribute to results so far.
So, can any players be credited with inspiring the game of the London City midfielder?
“When I was younger it used to be David Silva at Man City, playing in that ten role, the little playmaker high up the pitch. But as I'm getting older it's becoming people who are more holding midfielder or number eights like Kevin De Bruyne.
“But I just watch so much football, I watch any game. And I think I just like to look at different players and see different elements and try and work on that in my game to bring in different parts of it.”
Indeed, there will be no shortage of football for Rouse to enjoy after the Lewes match, as the Women’s Championship gives way to the first international break of the season.
In the light of this, the Republic of Ireland Football Association have announced that their women’s and men’s team will, for the first time, be paid equally for representing their country.
“We have a number of players in that Ireland Squad,” said Phillips, “and so, to see how hard that, the FAI and all of the girls from within have worked to accomplish something like equal pay is unbelievable.
I think it's a real statement from the FAI to provide that opportunity for the women's side as well, and I think you'll see it in a lot of other countries such as the US, where they're fighting the same battle for equal pay. It is just a great step forward for women's football.”
However, before the international break arrives there’s still a job to do, and three points to get.
London City take on Lewes at 14:00 on Sunday the 12th of September.