Sheffield United: Women are told to prove their fighting spirit
Carla Ward, manager of Sheffield United Women, has told her players the next two games represent an opportunity to demonstrate their fighting spirit after a combination of injury and suspension left it teetering on the verge of a selection crisis.
United are likely to be without several key names for Sunday's FA Cup tie against Aston Villa and Wednesday's Championship meeting with Manchester United at the Olympic Legacy Park, which could attract the venue's first sell-out crowd.
Although Ward acknowledged she is unlikely to be able to select a full-strength side for either game, the former Sporting Plaza de Argel and Sheffield FC midfielder said last weekend's fourth round win over Loughborough, which was achieved in equally difficult circumstances, proved what can be achieved when "everyone pulls together."
"You always find out more about people when they're facing adversity than when things are going well," Ward insisted. "We've told the players to stand up and be counted because this is a chance to show what they're all about again."
Goals from Alethea Paul and Veatriki Sarri saw United reach the next phase of a competition, which pits them against opponents they have already faced three times this term Although Ward's side have won twice, Villa recorded an emphatic win when they travelled to the Midlands two months ago.
"I wasn't happy after that one," Ward admitted. "It was probably our worst performance of the season and we don't want to see a repeat. There's a big prize at stake and what we want to do is take our last display, when we realised we'd had about 28 shots on goal after looking at the stats, into this one. What we've got to do is take more of those chances."
With Durham paired against Bristol City, Tottenham Hotspur hosting Manchester City and holders Chelsea facing Arsenal in a repeat of last season's final, Ward added: "If we get through, we could be one of the only teams from outside the top-flight in the quarter-finals, so there's a big incentive there, together with professional pride."