Sheffield United: '˜Keep showing the same grit as Chris Wilder's side and we'll do just fine'
Carla Ward, manager of Sheffield United Women, is challenging her players to take their momentum into this weekend's match against London Bees as the South Yorkshire club attempts to record its third straight FA Championship victory.
United travel to the capital on the back of wins over Crystal Palace and Leicester City, with the latter achieved in front of a 500 strong crowd at the Olympic Legacy Park, Attercliffe.
Although the meeting with City proved to be a gruelling affair - Ward's side collected several injuries as well as three more points - she revealed United will enter this weekend's fixture in upbeat mood after establishing a foothold in the revamped competition.
"For us, this is all about trying to keep the run going and building up a real head of steam," Ward said. "Confidence among the players is good, as you would expect, and I think we're beginning to see now that they're really gelling together. The key now is making sure we keep doing the good things we've been doing and getting even better at them whilst trying to improve in other areas."
United's hopes of achieving a positive result at The Hive Stadium were boosted last night when Ward and her staff receieved their latest dispatch from the treatroom room, where Ellie Fletcher and Hollie Barker have both been rehabilitating since City's visit 12Â days ago.
Barker, a close season signing from Rotherham, was on the receiving end of a particularly brutal challenge as United, who are also awaiting news of Alethea Paul's ankle complaint, triumphed 1-0 thanks to Bex Rayner's late strike.
"Although we didn't really want a break in games at the time, looking back we probably needed it," Ward said. "We picked-up quite a few injuries in the last match, when City came to try and rough us up which they did.Â
"We're sweating on Ellie but Hollie has returned to training. Alethea is close to a return so we'll see how she is."
"The pleasing thing for me, other than the result of course, was watching how the team really stuck together, stuck to its guns and came through that way," she continued. "I think we've learned a lot, especially from the last two matches, that we can take forward with us."
With Ward's approach mirroring the one employed by Chris Wilder in the Championship, arguably the most important lesson focuses on the importance of attitude, character and team spirit.
After being handed a difficult start to the season, facing Durham and big-spending Manchester United in their first two league outings, United have since climbed to sixth in the table; a point behind City having played a game less. The Bees, meanwhile, are eighth.
"When the fixtures came out, we knew it would be tough," Ward said. "Durham are a side I always admired as a player. They've been together for a long time and, although we're more technical, they are very whole-hearted so it showed the players the importance of that. Manchester United are a full-time team.
"So looking back, I'm glad we had the start we did. I'm glad we did it that way and, if you gave me the choice, I'd do it all over again."