Vixens face champions Blackburn in penultimate game

Ahead of the penultimate game of the season versus league champions Blackburn, we spoke to manager Glen Preston to gain his thoughts on the match.

Glen, a point against Fylde at the weekend saw your side jump out of the bottom two for the first time since the opening week of the season through goal difference. How significant do you think that is going into the last week of the season?

“I think from a psychological point of view, it not only gives us a lift, but it keeps the pressure on our competition, whilst we are not in a comfortable position by any stretch of the imagination it means matters are in our hands and if we keep performing as we are especially at home we have a great chance now.

Fylde twice came from behind to share the points with you. Reflecting back on last weekend, do you see that result as one point gained, or two points dropped?

“I think we will only know the answer to that question at 4 ‘o’clock on Sunday afternoon. It will either be one of the best points of our season or the two points which got away. I guess at the end of the day it was still essential for us to come away with something from that game. if WBA and Wolves do lose their last games of the season then we would stay up baring a miracle, so it could be a crucial point.

“Saying that,it was difficult to play so well, create as much as we did and to have the lead twice but not get the result we feel we deserved. Fylde are a class side and on any given Sunday a draw against a side with as much Super League experience as they have is never a bad result.

Did the performance give you a lot to be pleased about, especially as the players really looked up for the fight?

“Absolutely, the players gave it their all!  Over the last few weeks, we have seen an aggression we haven’t seen before, we are seeing players put everything on the line and almost bully sides into submission.  When you are where we are in the league all you can ask is that your players to leave it all out on the pitch and it been pleasing to see a fierce tenacity about our play of late.

“teams now know that when they play us they are going into war and if we keep that element of our mind set then we can definitely achieve our objectives.”

There were some very noticeable absentees on Sunday with the likes of Griffith, Brace and O’Hara missing, are these players likely to return to the squad versus Blackburn and did that make the result on Sunday even better?

“They will definitely return to the squad which I hope will give everyone a boost because having to play a side like Fylde with three of our best players missing wasn’t ideal but it opened the door for other players to stand up and be counted and I thought the likes of Kirstie Hunt and Charlie Blythe really stood up to the moment and so it will give me some tough decisions come Thursday.

“It does show the depth we now have that we can be missing not only some of our best players but some of the leagues best players and still compete with the best of them.”

You had only three points on the board at the halfway stage of the season, the second half has seen a real turn around in form with several wins, along with the club’s first ever County Cup title. What do you attribute this to?

“I think, it’s the fact we have been able to field our best squad more often of late. It’s taken us to the end of April to put out something that looks like our best eleven for the first time. Most of our experienced players were out injured in the first half of the season and as many as eight players didn’t complete any of pre-season at all.

“We then had to go out and sign quite a lot of new players and play a lot of development players as a consequence so It’s often been one step forwards two steps back. We’ve always maintained that when players returned and obtained match fitness we would be a different proposition for teams and that’s been backed up by the fact we’ve only lost four games in our last twelve. I don’t think we have lost a game yet this season where we have had our best squad available.”

Finally, you welcome the league champions Blackburn on Thursday night. How will you approach this game given the talent they possess?

“That’s the million dollar question every manager asks themselves every week, how do you go about stopping a side with such tremendous talent.

“Gemma Donnelly and her players are worthy winners and they are without question a class above the rest of us. They set the bench mark we all aspire to achieve going forwards but that doesn’t stop the fact we have to try and find a way to win!

“They have lost twice this season so there is hope, we gave them a good game at their pad and on another day could have got a draw, we have improved since then and so its down to us to welcome them as worthy champions and respect what they have achieved but once we cross the white line we have to go to war with them and make it as unpleasant as possible to play against Guiseley.

“We have to fight for our lives because our battle is very different and if we can produce the kind of aggressive performance we did last Sunday then nothing is impossible. This is a cup final for us with the incentive of retaining our status in this league if we can win so we have to go for it!”

words: Oliver Coultas
photo: Ian Stevens