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The Blues head into Sunday’s season finale against Everton in the knowledge a victory would secure Champions League football for the 2018/19 campaign.
With Nick Cushing’s side having been unable to replicate the trophy successes of recent years, captain Houghton has issued a rallying call for her teammates to secure a top-two finish with a similar performance to Wednesday’s superb triumph over Yeovil to reward the fans’ unwavering loyalty.
“On reflection, we haven’t reached the levels we had expectations of,” she told ManCity.com, “but that’s not for a lack of hard work, effort or commitment.
“I really believe this group of players and staff have been committed to making all of our fans and our families proud.
“We have to make sure we enjoy the final game and thank the fans. We need to stick together as a team, working hard for each other and for the football club.
“Football is a funny game and things happen for reasons. We know we haven’t played to our best but we also haven’t played poorly. We competed all the way along, getting to finals and semi-finals.
“It was disappointing to lose the Continental Tyres Cup Final and lose out in the title race. Now, we need to make sure we keep fighting for the Champions League.
“We just ran out of legs towards the end for a mixture of reasons – coming back off the European Championships and the Spring Series; then carrying on non-stop all the way through until now.
“Plus, there have been a few decisions here and there that may have gone our way on another day. The most important thing is that we look at ourselves as individuals and as a team to see where we can improve. We also have to focus on what we’ve done well and we’ll look to build on all of our experience next year.”
Houghton added this season’s setbacks will fuel the hunger to relive success, with her side desperate to be the best.
“Expectation is with us,” she added. “We have to make sure we keep improving. We don’t stand still – we keep looking to improve, whether that’s from a physical point of view, technical or tactical.
“We want to be the best team in England and in Europe. That’s what this football club deserves.
“Over the summer, we’ll get away and have a nice break, spending some time switched off from football. Then, we’ll look forward to pre-season and making ourselves better on the whole to ensure we compete for trophies again next year.
“We really appreciate the job we have. Everybody else would love to be in the position we’re in. We play in a fantastic stadium and we count ourselves lucky. We want to show that on the pitch.”
Clashes with Everton have proved tough for the Blues over recent seasons. The two sides have met twice already this campaign with Cushing’s side emerging victorious with 3-2 and 2-1 triumphs.
Houghton expects a similar test but spoke of the importance of finishing the season strongly, especially on home soil.
“Everton are a young and upcoming squad,” she stated. “They have strength in depth and they’ve had a really good season.
“Whenever we play Everton, it’s tough but like any other game, we have to concentrate on us.
“We haven’t played at home as much as we would have liked since Christmas. Whenever we step into our stadium, we put pressure on ourselves to perform well in front of our own fans, who have been unbelievable.
“Home and away, they’ve supported us every step of the way. We haven’t been able to reward that loyalty with trophies this year but it’s important we give something back.”
Tickets for Sunday's game are available and can be purchased online via tickets.mancity.com or at the Etihad Stadium Ticket Office.
The aspiring young footballer thought she was visiting the club to provide City in the Community with feedback on its community initiative programmes, and was gobsmacked when she was presented with the tickets. Libby also had the chance to meet the artist before the show as a reward for her dedication to the sport and also received two tickets to an upcoming Manchester City game to see her favourite women’s players in action
City inched closer to next season’s European competition after a superb Claire Emslie stunner, an Izzy Christiansen penalty and a hat-trick from Parris sealed a 5-0 victory over Yeovil Town Ladies.
The official verdict...