City host Arsenal in a top-of-the-table FA Women’s Super League clash at the Academy Stadium, having suffered defeat to the Gunners in Wednesday night’s Continental Cup semi-final encounter at Borehamwood.
TICKETS: City v Arsenal Women | Sun 2 Feb
Sunday’s match-up marks Cushing’s final game in charge of the Club, following six years at the helm, before he embarks for a new adventure as Assistant Manager of New York City FC.
Houghton has called upon her teammates to pick themselves up quickly from the midweek setback and produce a performance fitting of Cushing’s time in charge – to give him the send-off he deserves.
“It would be nice to send the gaffer off with three points and us top of the league but I know for a fact he won’t want it about him,” she stated.
“I’m gutted he’s going – he’s not just a manager: he’s a friend, and he’ll be a big miss for the league and for women’s football.
“I’ve always said: he’s been an unbelievable coach for me personally and also for the Club.
“Where we were in 2014 to now, people look at us to copy our model of play. The Club tries to win as many football games as we can in all competitions.
“Ultimately, he stays within the City Football Group which is fantastic. It’s an unbelievable opportunity for him – to go into men’s football.
“For us as a Club, we need to win games and we’ll focus on doing that.
“It will be a good game on Sunday. There’s a lot at stake in terms of the fact we’re both on the same amount of points.
“We have to go back and review the Conti Cup game and recover as a team as well as we can. We have to get ready to start better than we did on Wednesday.
“When you get to the semi-final stage of a competition, especially with the Conti Cup being special to us and us as the current holders, it’s disappointing not to be in the Final.
“This Club deserves to be in Cup Finals, but we didn’t play well enough to do that.
“I’m proud of the team, especially in the second half. We gave it a right go. Maybe we gave Arsenal too much respect in the first half and ultimately, paid the price for that.
“Arsenal have quality players and when you give a team like that two goals, it’s difficult to come back.
“Gemma Bonner scored from a corner to make it tense in the last 20 minutes and we were unfortunate not to get a second goal.”
Asked what she feels City must do differently on Sunday, Houghton asserted her side must have more trust in their own ability.
“Going into these kind of games, you have to believe more,” she declared.
“We have quality players and the way we play, we can hurt teams. We need to have a bit more quality and aggression to get in their faces and stop them playing. I felt we did that in the second half.
“Lauren Hemp caused them problems all game but as a team, we need to believe a bit more. Arsenal are a good team but so are well.
“I know a lot of people put us down for the way we play football but we have good players – international players who perform at the highest level.
“We have to make sure we impose our game on Arsenal and give them respect but not too much.
“I don’t think Sunday’s game will change in terms of the way we approach it. We aim to win every game and I believe in my teammates. We have a lot more to give.
“There’s a long way to go. We’ve seen different results in this league – that’s what this league is about: making life difficult – and we never expect to win.
“Come Sunday, we’ll be ready to fight for this league.”
Tickets for City v Arsenal are available online or at the Etihad Stadium Ticket Office.