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Houghton calls for another quick start

HIGH FLYERS: Man City Women are top of the league

HIGH FLYERS: Man City Women are top of the league

Man City Women captain Steph Houghton has urged her side to fly out of the blocks once again on Sunday.

The Blues host Sunderland, looking to retain their place at the top of the Super League table and head into the clash on the back of two thumping victories of 8-0 and 5-1.

In both encounters, Nick Cushing's side bagged early goals and the City and England skipper wants the same fast-paced opening this weekend.

"It’s important we continue to want to win games and keep our performance level high," she told ManCity.com. "If our performances in the first 15-20 minutes are good, we’ve got half a chance of getting three points.

"It was important we started well against Notts County. We'd gone three weeks without a game, which is frustrating as players but we'd done some really good work on the training pitch and maintained our fitness.

"That was evident on Sunday. Physically, we looked in really good shape - we pressed from the front and we were aggressive.

"We’d been wanting to win a game like that for a long time. The girls in front of us were very clinical and everybody’s really pleased with our performance.

"Now, we have to concentrate on Sunderland, which will be a tough game. We have to keep our professional mentality and trust in our gameplan."

The triumph at Meadow Lane saw City return to winning ways in the league, following successive draws against Liverpool - another fact which pleased the skipper.

"It was important we bounced back," she added. "We know no-one can go a whole season without both ups and downs.

"We were disappointed with our performances against Liverpool, especially at home, and we knew we could have given a little bit more.

"It’s a very long season and we have a really good squad. Competition for places is very high. We learn from every experience and try to improve as we go.

"I feel the girls have looked at themselves both individually and as a team to see where we could improve. We’ve worked really hard on the training pitch to ensure we returned to winning ways."

One negative of the win over Notts County was the injury to Abbie McManus. The defender was stretchered off on the hour-mark, which Houghton admits is a huge blow.

"She’s been a fantastic player for us and she’s fully earned that place at centre half," she said. "She’s been one of our best players so she’ll be a massive miss for us.

"That makes us more determined to win as many games as possible – for her."

Houghton will face her former employers on Sunday. Last season's 'surprise package' have found their second season in the top flight more difficult to contend with, but the England star insists City never expect to win.

"Even though the results haven’t gone the way they wanted and they’ve conceded a lot of goals, they’re always a difficult side to beat," she asserted.

"They’re always well-organised and they’ve got a good goalscorer in Beth Mead so we have to make sure we’re switched on at the back.

"We won’t take them for granted – we need to play the way we want to and earn the right to do so.

"They were a bit of an unknown last season and Mead was scoring for fun. When you’ve had a season where you’ve done well and surprised people, it's difficult to carry that into a second season.

"The league is becoming more and more competitive and the standard of the teams is increasing. We have full respect for Sunderland and we’ll prepare in the same way we do for every game.

"We have a good run of games now. As a footballer, you want rhythm and you want games. For us to have plenty of games in the upcoming weeks will be useful to build confidence and hopefully, embark on a positive run."

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Tickets and hospitality are available for Sunday's game. Visit tickets.mancity.com for more information.

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