Guiseley Vixens look to achieve a place in the West Riding FA County Women’s Cup Final this Wednesday night as they take on Bradford City Women.
Oliver Coultas recently caught up with Joint Managers Glen Preston and Kyle O’Reilly to get their thoughts on the fixture.
By their standards Bradford have been struggling this season, how will you take advantage of this come Wednesday?
Preston started off by saying, “I think the FAWPL is tough to be fair to them but we are used to seeing Bradford challenging for the title. I don’t think they have finished outside of the top five for the last four years and they might just fall short of that depending on how they finish the season.
“By their own standards it might be seen as a tough season but they’ve had a change of manager, players have come and gone so it probably has been a tough season for them but in the end this probably works to our disadvantage as it elevates the County Cup on their priority list in order to keep their season alive.
“In terms of taking advantage I guess mentally we can go into this game with belief we can compete. Last season we took them to a penalty shootout which ended in defeat but this year we feel we are a much better team so if we turn up on the day we can definitely beat them.”
O’Reilly added, “It’s been a tough season for a few of the ‘established heads’ in the WPL. The newer teams have been a breath of fresh air in the WPL, with how they play and as Glen said, Bradford have changed manager after 10 years or so in pre-season and as a result there’s been a turn-over of players so credit has to go to Charlotte for recruiting and maintaining the same style of play at the club.
“Steve (Winterburn) had created a successful competitive team and that was evidenced by their league positions, points totals and county cup victories. I’ve no doubts Bradford will be looking to archive similar things this season and beyond with the quality they have.”
With them being your local rivals and them also being at the top of the league of disciplinary, how heated of a game do you think it’ll be?
GP: “It’s a local derby and many players have played for both clubs so it will be personal to them so off course we’re going to expect it to get heated at times.
“We know they probably do like the odd yellow card or two but we just need our own players and staff to keep emotional control. We can’t really comment or control what Bradford do on the pitch so we just have to ensure our own house is in order once we cross the white line.”
KO: “Of course, derby games always add an edge we’ve seen that in the many games we’ve had this season.
“Bradford have a lot of ex-Guiseley players and vice versa so the players are well aware of each other. All we can do as managers is set the right example and maintain the club’s reputation, focusing on the opposition would be a waste of time and energy.”
Who do you think will pose a threat when you come up against them and how do you seek to exploit their defence?
GP: “Good question. As much as we’d like to say Bradford don’t have many qualities or top players the truth is they do. On paper it might be a great match up this fixture because our strengths might play into the oppositions best qualities and vice versa.
“For example, I think they have good collective qualities in their ability to press, they seem a better team out of possession and like to counter quickly with long and direct play which is tough to play against when the quality upfront is good which with the likes of Hannah Campbell and Laura Elford it is.
“They are a strong physical team so we will have our hands full with mini battles all over the pitch so we will definitely have to roll our sleeves up but on the flip to all that we like the ball. We’re a very strong technical side and we’ve averaged between 60-80% possession in every match we have played this year including games vs FAWPL sides.
“Thus it could be down to if they can press better than we can keep it or if they can out do us on the ball but it certainly makes for a good match up…. I just hope we do the spectacle justice.”
KO: “Their threat for me is their cohesion as a team. They don’t want to give much away in their half so they’ll likely try to absorb any pressure and kill any space in behind them, then with the directness of the front three they’ll try release them early. It’s been a successful system for a number of years and even this season so I don’t see that changing.
“For us it’s a case of being patient, we have goals all over the pitch and in all phases of the game, so we just need to be patient and pick our time to open their block. Two contrasting styles which should make for a good spectacle!”
You’ve put together a remarkable team after having only a handful of players when you joined and they are almost champions at the first time of asking. That’s got to make you feel proud?
GP: “We are extremely proud of what we’ve achieved this season. Guiseley came down in very bad shape with a damaged reputation. We had just five or six players on the books so we’ve had to recruit 30+ players to run two teams, bring in an entire new coaching set up, install a proper playing philosophy, ask many to take a leap of faith to drop leagues because there is a real project for them here.
“It’s fair to say it’s been much tougher than people think because the FAWPL Division One is twice as strong as it’s ever been!
“So when we hear clubs using a period of transition as a reason for underperforming we look at our own period of transition and can feel extremely proud.
“We believe we’ve built a FAWPL standard team as we’ve shown by beating Middlesbrough 4-2, drawing with Huddersfield and been unlucky not to beat Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup where we felt we were the better team on the day.
“We’ve shown we can compete and outplay teams at that level but we are not there yet. There’s plenty of work to be done but this club is on a big upwards curve.”
How’s the squad shaping up and do you have any major injury concerns?
GP: “Both teams are probably going to be far from full strength this Wednesday as many of our university players are away just as Bradford’s are. We have three cup tied players which doesn’t help and without giving too much away we probably do have a couple of injury doubts but we will know more in the next 24 hours.
“However we’re also boosted by the return of Cam Clarke who made her first start in 2 years on Sunday and Steph Barraclough has also returned and she kept a great clean sheet at the weekend. She was fantastic so that’s good news.
“Danica Roberts has come into the side and impressed up front. She’s a player with real quality in an around the penalty box as shown in the last two games where she’s assisted in match winners.
“Debs Hastings is starting to settle well and her pace terrorised Chester-le-Street at the weekend. She has a great scoring record verses Bradford so she might have a big part to play and we welcome back Sarah Danby, Hannah Hale and Scotty (Emily Scott) who have been away for the last few weeks.
“So although we will be missing six or seven players, we will have a great squad and we have complete faith in the team we put out.”
The West Riding FA County Women’s Cup Semi-Final takes place this Wednesday at 7:30pm at the County Cup headquarters at Fleet Lane, Woodlesford.