Women's Team

Taylor: Early goal was key

Gareth Taylor says City’s early goal set the tone in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Leicester.

The home side broke the deadlock after just 16 minutes at the Academy Stadium, as Caroline Weir slid home Chloe Kelly’s cut-back and bagged two more before the break with Alex Greenwood completing the rout from the penalty spot.

With just three league games remaining, it was a crucial three points in the race for a top three (and Champions League) spot, lifting the FA Cup Finalists to third – if only temporarily before Manchester United’s trip to Aston Villa.

Reflecting on the win, Taylor was pleased with his side’s start to the game but admitted the manner of victory could have been greater.

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“I think it’s important we got the win at this stage of the season,” he said.

“Those games aren’t easy. People think they are but Leicester are fighting for their lives, especially with Birmingham’s result yesterday – it draws them back in slightly.

“They were looking to get anything they can and make it difficult. It was good that we got the early goal and it was good play because I felt the first goal was important.

“I felt between goals one and two, we were a bit off it – we went a little bit loose but stepped it up again after the second goal.

“It was a really good finish from Lauren Hemp and then Julie [Blakstad] tells me her goal was deliberate… I’m still to be convinced but the play before then was really good.

“Sometimes those moments happen and the ball goes into the back of the net.

“In the second half, I thought maybe we were a bit flat between 45 and 60 minutes. I made three changes because of that and that was nothing to do with the players I took off – I just felt we needed an injection of something.

“It’s always difficult when you go to a [back] five - you’re chasing with five in front, against us who are good in possession. You won’t cause problems. A back four leaves spaces but allows an extra player to press. If you play with a back four, it helps you more but back five do more defending.

“We were pleased to get a penalty – the first in a long time – but I felt we didn’t work the goalkeeper enough in the second half.

“We had half chances and moments but just need to trust in the positional play a little bit more, especially when the spaces are really short and we need players to be able to really stick to that positional play a little bit better to enable us to get better chances. The better quality of chances gives us a better chance of scoring.”

Julie Blakstad netted City’s third of the afternoon – her first goal for the Club – and Taylor hailed her contribution, explaining he opted to start the Norwegian for her attacking threat from the full-back position.

“Julie is more attacking,” he added. “Demi [Stokes] is good defensively and likes to join attack but with Hemp, it’s a support act.

“Demi played well last week. I thought today if we had another attacking player, it’d help us. For 25 mins it worked: Lauren caused problems, combining with Caroline.

“It didn’t quite ignite in the second half – probably down to us more than the opposition in nailing down our details – but it was probably not a nice situation for the Leicester backline facing two players like that: left foot, good quality. The initial part was very impressive.

“For us, it was knowing how much we’d defend with extra in attack - why we went for Julie. They had good sequences but it’s also about getting Lauren in central areas.

“She’s caused damage and scored goals centrally, she creates a lot out wide but it’s a different string to her game.

“She showed great counter-pressing when we won the ball back. We were in good positions. She’s a dangerous player and no matter where she plays, we have to get the mix right.”

Taylor also shared an update on youngster Jess Park, who was absent from the matchday squad for the second successive game.

“Jess has missed the last two games since she came back off international duty.” He added. “It was an injury sustained on 23s duty with England.

“She’s got a calf problem, which is probably looking like a few weeks. We’re hoping we might get her back on pitch this week to enable her to potentially be involved in the run-in – maybe the last game or the Final.”

As the 2021/21 campaign draws to a close, City have plenty to play for: an FA Cup as well as a top three spot, but Taylor asserts his side must remain focused on the task at hand.

“It’s just about remaining calm in what we do,” he stated. “I never said we need to score eight, nine, ten goals – we just make sure we do the right things.

“The quality of the chances will always be the difference. Keep it calm, focus on the next game… The fact we’re in this position is great.

“When you worry about elsewhere, it can be an issue. We just affect what we can affect. We’ve proved we can do it and win games. We did it last season, took Chelsea to the final game… It wasn't quite enough because they did the same, we’re more than capable of doing that.

“Ultimately we just try to keep them focused. Time is pretty short but we’ve excelled at that in my time, even with a spate of games in quick succession. We've done well.”

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