Nick Cushing has admitted that victory over Chelsea at Kingsmeadow this weekend will leave his side in an ‘incredible position’.
His Manchester City side were 1-0 winners against their North West rivals Liverpool on Sunday to keep them in touch at the top of the FA Women’s Super League table but it was far from a routine victory.
After watching his side battle to victory, the City boss confessed that he expected a tough match.
He said “We expected a difficult game. Liverpool have improved in performances and had a positive performance against Arsenal, although they lost.
“We knew that they’d come here trying to get something and they’ve got good players, they’re a good team.
“Alright, they’re sitting bottom of the league, but we knew it was going to be dangerous.”
Although City took the lead in the opening 45 minutes through former Red Gemma Bonner, Liverpool were the better side after the interval as they seemed to grow in confidence as they hunted for an equaliser.
Cushing was also quick to point out the areas he felt his team were lacking which allowed the opposition to get a foothold in the match.
“I just thought we lacked a little bit of control in the second half and a little bit of fatigue came in, we looked tired and then the decision making starts to be scruffy” Cushing added.
With early indications suggesting that this could be one of the tightest title races in FA Women’s Super League history, Cushing emphasised the importance of grinding out results whilst reflecting on missed opportunities last season which ultimately cost them the title.
He said “We didn’t push Arsenal the way we could’ve pushed them because these games were draws last year.
“We drew here with Reading, we drew here with Bristol City, we drew away to Bristol City, so we had to make sure that we won this game.”
This season, Cushing’s side cuts a much more disciplined figure despite not brushing teams aside in the same way they did in the previous campaign.
“I think we had a similar game to Everton away, just 1-0” said the City boss.
“Although we’ve controlled parts of the game and created a lot, we haven’t got that second goal which allows the opposition to still be in the game.
“We’ve been resilient, fought hard and made sure it was three points and not one.”
With that being said, the title race could in the end be so tight it will in fact come down to goal difference and after Arsenal trounced Bristol City 11-1 they have laid down a marker for the rest of the title challengers. Yet Cushing seemed nonplussed by Arsenal’s dominant scoreline when we he said “They’ve got good players, they can create a lot of goals but one week you can win 1-0, the next week you can win 11-1.
“We’re just concentrating on trying to get points, making sure we push them hard.”
If the focus remains on points over goal difference, it makes the top of the table six-pointers all the more significant. With an away game against early front runners Chelsea bearing down on the blue side of Manchester, Cushing discussed the weight that such a fixture has.
He added “Chelsea haven’t had a game today so they’ve got a game in hand but we now go to Chelsea with a really important game next week.
“I think it is really important for us because we didn’t beat Arsenal away so we want to make sure in the head-to-heads that we give ourselves the best chance of staying in and around the top two so come the end of the season, we’re fighting for the trophy.”
“It’ll be a difficult game, we’re just trying to make sure that we send the best possible squad in the freshest possible state we can.”
Giving a first start of the season to Laura Coombs against Liverpool also allowed Cushing to rest key players to ensure they are match fit for the coming fixture. He also highlighted the strength-in-depth that his squad possesses, which could play a huge role in the game against Chelsea at the weekend.
“Getting Coombs back is really important for us because she’s a good player and she needs more minutes” said Cushing.
“Its competitive, we’ve got Jill Scott and Georgia Stanway on the bench today, we lost Pauline Bremer yesterday, but she’s okay nothing too serious but this game was too soon.
“It’s a competitive squad, to get players playing well it makes it hard to pick an XI but it gets the team performances at the level that we need them.”
Cushing refused to downplay the impact that results against the so called ‘lesser sides’ could have when it comes to the final standings at the end of the season.
He said “I think the head-to-heads will play a part but I (also) think days like today, not dropping points in these moments because at some point around these games one of the top three, as people perceive them, will drop some points, you’ve seen Chelsea draw against Brighton earlier in the season.”
Cushing’s final words were to highlight to huge importance of his side’s next fixture. He stated “If we beat Chelsea, it puts us in an incredible position.
“For us it’s an opportunity, we’ve always consistently tried to win football games and maybe last year we were good in the head-to-heads because we won those games or drew them, but then we dropped points around the other games.
“So, we want to make sure that we’re competitive in those head-to-heads but also in games like today we come away with 3 points.”
All eyes will be on that gargantuan battle between Chelsea and Manchester City at Kingsmeadow but in Nick Cushing’s eyes three points are three points, regardless of the opposition.