Focus On Ourselves – Kirk Previews WSL Finale At Brighton
Following a narrow 2-1 loss to West Ham United last weekend, the fate of Leicester’s league safety comes down to the last day, as they make the trip south to take on a Brighton side currently one space above them.
Ahead of this weekend’s fixture at Broadfield Stadium, the manager has been speaking to the media at Belvoir Drive – here are the main talking points…
West Ham defeat
The Foxes were beaten by West Ham United last time out.
The Foxes rounded off their home campaign last Sunday when they welcomed the Hammers to King Power Stadium. The visitors sealed three points, although Hannah Cain netted a consolation penalty late into injury time.
Reflecting on the result, the former Everton manager was disappointed to not be able to retain their WSL status in front of the home crowd, waiting until this weekend to possibly do so instead.
“Everybody is feeling the same sense of frustration,” Kirk told the media. “We dominated the West Ham game in terms of possession, but it looked a little bit desperate and nervy. We took shots from distance which I thought we managed to eradicate from our game.
“All the players are a little bit frustrated that we didn’t believe in ourselves more and follow the game plan. After their goal we tried to equalise so quickly, and the game got away from us.
“I believe that if Reading had beat Tottenham, that we would’ve won our game, or if they had been playing at the same time. For the first time this season, we let an external feeling dictate our emotions. We should’ve been playing with the freedom we usually do.”
Training this week
Aileen Whelan warming up at Belvoir Drive.
Despite failing to take advantage of Reading’s loss to Tottenham in the penultimate round of games, the manager was keen to commend the players’ efforts in training this week as fate still remains firmly in City’s hands.
“The players have been on it in training,” the 44-year-old continued. “They want to be in that team come Saturday to prove a point. We got to the stage where we were proving everybody wrong and, last week, we were almost scared to let people down. I’m glad that we’re back to proving people wrong again, and they’ve shown a really good reaction in training.
“We want to stay away from matching Reading’s result and that mentality. We want to win the game, as it means a lot to us to beat last season’s goal tally and goals scored. If we win the game, them we finish 10th, so that’s the achievement we’re aiming for.”
Looking at Brighton
Brighton are three points ahead of Leicester going into the final day of the season.
Brighton, who replaced their manager last month while holding up the rest of the table, head into the weekend with safety already secured as two wins since Melissa Phillips' arrival, turned things around for the Seagulls. The manager explained how it has proved to be a difficult analysis of a team who haven’t had a set system throughout the season.
He added: “Brighton have had a number of managers this season, who have implemented a number a styles. Even last week they changed their style again, so we’ve had to prep ourselves carefully for whatever they may come out with on the day.
“They’ve certainly improved, and they’ve picked up points which many people were doubting they’d be able to do.
“We’ve tried to keep training consistent, and we're confident with our in-ossession shape as the players play better when it’s focused on us. We look for where the spaces are, rather than worrying about what formation we’re playing against.
“It’s more the out-of-possession we’ve been working on so that the players know when to push, how to push, and that probably comes from us trying to adopt that front-foot style, where we take the game to the opposition.”
Ashleigh Plumptre in action at King Power Stadium.
If all goes as the Foxes wish, Saturday will be the day they confirm WSL next football next season, as the requirements are to match Reading’s result, who welcome current champions Chelsea looking to for back-to-back titles.
But in his final press conference of the season, the manager confirmed that his side will not focus on what is happening at Select Car Leasing Stadium, and instead look at what can be achieved by winning themselves on the south coast.
“If we start thinking about the Reading game, then that’s where complacency sneaks in,” Kirk stated. “I’d be disappointed if any players think about that game too much. We know what’s required, and we’d rather focus on trying to finish 10th.
“We want to be history makers – no one has ever turned around a seven-point deficit at the bottom of the league in WSL history so we want to be the first, and I’m sure we will be.”
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