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Cushing pleased with defensive display after "scrappy" trip to Birmingham

Nick Cushing praised his side’s defensive control but admitted the weather made for a frustrating opening to the FA Women’s Super League campaign.

City Women kicked off the 2015 league season with a 0-0 draw away to Birmingham, played in gale force conditions in the Midlands, which the boss believes was a big factor in a “scrappy” encounter.

The hosts went down to ten seconds before half time, but City were unable to take advantage in a second half short on chances.

Cushing told mcfc.co.uk: “It was a scrappy game because of the weather and wind. It spoilt the numerical advantage that we had because the ball was up in the air and blowing about.

“I think it played into Birmingham’s hands a little more because we like to get the ball down and dominate possession and I think the wind really affected that at times, making it difficult to control the ball and put passes together.

“It was frustrating for me from the sidelines because I want to see a football game and I want to see a game that we dominate.

...Nick Cushing...


“But when you play a team that are very direct and want to put you under pressure then the wind adds to that pressure, so I was really pleased that we controlled the game when we didn’t have the ball and dominated defensively.”

City’s best spell of the game came against 11 players in the early stages, and while they couldn’t find a way past a stoic Birmingham defence, Cushing expressed his delight at his own side’s defensive solidity.

He declared: “Maybe in the first half we will look back and think that we could have capitalised on the pressure that we had and the control we had, but the first game of the season is always going to be scrappy.

“Last year in this game we didn’t have that control and calmness defensively when teams were putting us under direct pressure and seeing a lot of the ball. But today I think there was one dangerous shot from a free kick which is a good thing for us.”

The second half was marred by an injury to young midfielder Keira Walsh, who had to be carried off the field in some pain, but the manager was able to reassure supporters that the problem doesn’t look as serious as was first feared.

“Keira is fine,” said Cushing after full time. “I think initially we thought it was going to be worse than it was, but she’s settled down now and was walking around and smiling, so it looks like an impact injury.”

Loan signing Nikita Parris made her second start of the new term, while there was a competitive debut for Wales international Natasha Harding, who emerged from the bench in the second half.

The forward, who signed from Bristol City earlier this month, gave a good account of herself in a 20 minute cameo and her boss believes there is more to come.

Revealed Cushing: “Natasha has so much more to come, but today I thought she showed her pace and she showed her direct play. In this team that’s what we want, attacking players who show flair and creativity. She gave us a glimpse of what she can do which will be really important to us in the next few games.”

Jill Scott, who captained the side in the absence of the injured Steph Houghton, was pleased to get the league campaign under way with a point after a long pre-season.

“It was a brilliant feeling. After three months of pre-season you want to get out there and play some games!” she smiled. “It’s good to get a point on the board and we’ll go on from here.

“In this fixture last year we came away with no points so it’s a definitely a positive building from last season. We would have liked to have taken the three but to be fair they did very well with ten players in the second half and were hard to break down.”

Next on the fixture list is a tricky trip to the North East to take on newly promoted Sunderland, who sprang a shock on reigning Champions Liverpool on the opening day of the season – a game that still holds a special feeling for former Black Cat Jill.

“Sunderland beat Liverpool the other day so it’s not going to be an easy fixture for us,” she explained. “Hopefully we’ve learnt things from Birmingham that can help us in that game.

“It’s still a special game for me. It’s been nine years since I left Sunderland but I still know a lot of people there and it’s good that my family can come and watch the game because it’s just around the corner. It’s a special fixture for me but for the 90 minutes I’ll be wanting the points off them!” 

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