The Vixens are on the road again this weekend, this time playing local rivals Huddersfield Town Ladies at the Stafflex Arena.
The two sides met last year in the FAWPL Plate where a fierce 4-4 draw was taken all the way to penalties, with Huddersfield coming out 5-4 victors.
The rivalry was already in place but was intensified this summer when last season’s top scorer for the Vixens, Sarah Danby, made the move across West Yorkshire to Town.
Oliver Coultas sat down with former Huddersfield and current Guiseley manager, Glen Preston, to gain his thoughts about the match and heard what he had to say about his former side.
Huddersfield have got off to a fantastic start winning their first game 4-0. How much do you know about them, considering changes since you left the club?
“Yeah they had a great result last week fair play to them and to be honest it’s not unexpected. I know they have had two low key seasons prior but the side Ash and Steve have put together this year has to be up there with the best of them. Not only do they have incredible quality but incredible depth as well, so it’s hard not to see them gunning for a top three finish this season.
“As for how well we know them, I’d say both sides know each other really well. All the players know each other as most are really good friends off the field and myself and Ash know each other well having worked together for two years. Both sides like to play a similar brand of football, for example, both sides have played 3-4-3 as either primary or secondary formation this pre-season so I’d say we know most of what there is to know but in derby games that can often go out of the window and it becomes about who wants it more, so I guess anything can happen.”
Who do you think the key player will be for Huddersfield Town and do you have any plans to nullify them?
“There’s so many where do you start? The obvious two are Kate Mallin and Emily Heckler, two players who for me really should be playing Super League. Aside from them, I’d probably say Danielle Witham. To be honest there’s no easy street to containing these players so we just have to ensure our game plan is solid and we take the fight to them and not let them settle into any rhythm as best we can.”
Has the tension mounted between the two clubs with last season’s top goal scorer Sarah Danby moving across the region to play for your rivals?
“I think the tension between the sides was there before hand, many players and coaches have been at both clubs so it means a lot to everyone. Obviously, Sarah leaving was disappointing as she was class for us last year and we will miss her but it’s not the end of the world. We now look forward to seeing Nikki Berko don the number nine shirt (if she can recover in time). She’s a fabulous player with an amazing scoring record having scored 400 goals in her last nine seasons. She’s played at Everton when they were in WSL 1 as well as Manchester City and has already notched five goals in three games over pre-season so she could be the key for us. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that she will pass a fitness test before the game.”
Speaking of fitness, you’ve had a lot of injury problems which is unusual for the start of the season to have so many absent, what’s the current situation like?
“As you say it’s been absolutely incredible; I’ve never seen anything like it! We’ve had three players pick up injuries through none football related events, three pickup impact injuries via some really poor tackles which you don’t want to see in pre-season. Five are away in other countries at the moment and naturally, you expect to pick up a few niggly injuries but to get this all at once has made life tough.
“It’s meant we’ve had to start on the back foot, patch the team together and make the best of what players we do have available but on the flip side to that it’s given a lot of youngsters a chance who have impressed and its made us work hard to come together as a team.
The young players you speak about showed their class last weekend when they slotted into the side. Will we see a repeat of this on Sunday?
“You know what, the devs have got an amazing team spirit about them, they are flying. It’s the best development team I have worked with! They played a strong Hull City mid-week who I don’t think ever had less than six first team players on the pitch at any one time and beat them 3-2 and deservedly so. I know it’s only a friendly but it gives us incredible confidence in them they really do have bright futures. Ebony Njie who started last week has been fantastic and Ellie Parkin whose GPS stats were off the chart mid-week is another one who will be in the squad this week and if needed, we have complete faith in these players that they can do a job.”
You’ve now had time to reflect on the Forest game. What are your thoughts on that game?
“It’s as we said after the game everyone was bitterly disappointed not to come away with at least a draw. We had 65% possession with the majority of our best players not even on the pitch which tells you we have some talent here.
“Forest were a tough powerful side especially since they’ve recruited a lot of players from West Brom and so it was a tough battle but we played well in that game and so we can hold our heads up high! It’s easy to say this but I think if we had a couple of our regular first teamers available for that game we would have probably had too much for Forest and maybe got the three points but that games gone now and so we move on and focus on the next task at hand.”
Finally, how badly do you want to make amends for last year’s cup defeat which went all the way to penalties?
“Last year’s game was a great game of football where we gave a great account of ourselves and probably should have won in the 90 minutes but we fell short via a coin flip.
“At the end of the day, both clubs had bigger fish to fry at that time. Winning the league for us was more important so we never had time to stop and think too much about that game.
“It doesn’t have any bearing on this encounter. All we are looking for is to try and put points on the board, produce a performance we are proud of and to try and make sure Town know they’ve been in a war. It won’t be easy given how strong town are this year and how patched up we are but we will be doing everything to make that happen.”
The game will take place at the Stafflex Arena, Huddersfield (HD8 0WA). Kick-Off is 2PM and you can follow along via the Twitter feed.
Words: Oliver Coultas