Southampton FC Women make their welcome return to football with a visit to AFC Bournemouth CST in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup on Sunday.
AFC Bournemouth CST vs Saints
Vitality Women’s FA Cup, first-round proper
Sunday 13th December, 1pm GMT
Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s side are back in action this weekend, following a brief suspension to fixtures during the second national lockdown.
The announcement to suspend fixtures came a day after Saints booked their place in the first round on the 2nd November with a 4-0 win over Ilminster.
Phoebe Williams opened the scoring on 32 minutes, with further goals coming from Alisha Ware (x2) and Ella Pusey on a comfortable afternoon.
AFC Bournemouth’s last game also came in the competition; a 3-1 win at home over Buckland Athletic, with Molly Clark scoring a hat-trick either side of the break.
Saints and Bournemouth met each other just over a year ago, this time in the Hampshire Cup and in front of a record 832 people at AFC Totton’s Snows Stadium.
The bumper crowd were treated to a dominant afternoon for Spacey-Cale’s side, who ran out 7-1 winners over their south coast rivals.
Rachel Panting and Shannon Sievwright both helped themselves to a double, whilst futher goals were added via Sophia Pharoah, Shannon Albuery and Caitlin Morris.
The result continued the side’s 13 match unbeaten run.
PLAYER FOCUS: ELLA PUSEY
Another period of having to train within the confines of their own home will no doubt be frustrating for any footballer.
But striker Ella Pusey has said herself and her fellow teammates have remained focus, ready for the return to action on Sunday.
“It was disappointing having to go away from the club,” she said. “But I think the girls are more motivated than ever.
“We’ve done our training away from the club, we keep working hard and we’re ready to go really.”
With 11 goals in six games, Pusey is enjoying a prolific start to the 2020/21 season and is understandably relishing getting back in action on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a big game; everyone likes playing in the FA Cup. Bournemouth are looking really strong this year so I think it’s going to be a really good test.
“But we know as a team that we’re strong enough and have been training hard.
“We’ve obviously had the lockdown disappointment but I think the girls have trained hard away from the club and we’ve been working hard now back at the training ground.”
PLAYER FOCUS: LUCIA KENDALL
A product of Southampton’s Regional Talent Club, Lucia Kendall is one of the new faces bringing a youthful spark to the Spacey-Cale’s side this season.
Already with two goals to her name in four games, Kendall is loving life in the first team environment this season, echoing Pusey’s enthusiasm ahead of the FA Cup return this weekend.
“I’m really excited,” she said with a wide smile. “Local derby, first proper round of the FA Cup so it’s starting to get to the serious side of the competition.
“I can’t wait to be involved and hopefully get a win.”
Someone with the potential of Kendall was always unlikely to have a quiet lockdown period, and that’s exactly how it turned out.
“It’s been tough, but I was lucky to go away on an England camp for the last week and a half, so only had a couple of weeks training at home.
“Everyone has continued to be motivated, so I think it’s been a good for us.”
With a break for the players came a break for the management staff, something Spacey-Cale took time to reflect upon this week.
“For the players it’s tough because they just want to be out on the pitch playing,” she said, “as a coach you just want to be out on the pitch too, seeing them training and improving every time.
“So it’s been tough but the most important thing is people’s health and wellbeing and ensuring that the nation is doing the right things so we can get out of this as quickly as possible.
“We trust the players; we know they’ve done a lot of work away from us. Now that they’ve come in they’re looking quite sharp.
“That trust has been rewarded and we’re now looking forward to getting back onto the pitch in a competitive environment.”
That opportunity comes this Sunday with the trip to Bournemouth.
“It’s an exciting prospect as Bournemouth have been playing really well up until the break.
“They’d had two really good results in the FA Cup so they’ll be absolutely buzzing and buoyant.
“We’ve got to be mindful that we’re at our best to get the result we want.”