September 29th, 2016

Mannion optimistic as Blues Ladies prepare for tough cup semi-final

Mannion optimistic as Blues Ladies prepare for tough cup semi-final Mannion optimistic as Blues Ladies prepare for tough cup semi-final
Aoife Mannion (right) and fellow Blues Ladies centre back Kerys Harrop attempt to put the shackles on Arsenal's Natalia Pablos Sanchon on Sunday. Picture by Scott Heavey (The FA/The FA via Getty Images).
Updated: 2:28 pm, Oct 05, 2015

DEFENDER Aoife Mannion insists Birmingham City Ladies can take plenty of positives into their Continental Tyres Cup semi-final at Arsenal after giving as good as they got in Sunday’s final WSL1 game of the season against the North London outfit.

Blues went down 1-0 to a 49th minute header from Spanish ace Natalia but were unlucky not to take something from the game against their high-flying hosts, who finished third in the table.

Despite the setback, which ended a five-match winning streak in all competitions in which Blues had not conceded a goal, Mannion said self-belief among the squad was soaring as performance levels as a team and individuals continue to improve.

“We will take great confidence from Sunday’s performance into the semi-final,” said Mannion, who again this season has been a rock at the heart of the Blues rearguard alongside fellow centre back Kerys Harrop.

“We have lots to build on from the league game as we dominated large parts of the match and produced an assured performance.

“We forced their keeper into more saves than ours had to make but the first goal was always going to be crucial and unfortunately we were caught cold at the start of the second half and conceded the goal, which was disappointing.

“Next time we will seek to keep our concentration levels higher and hopefully that can swing things our way.”

Mannion accepts Blues will need to be at the top of their game to see off the Gunners and book a place in the final against Liverpool or Notts County at Rotherham United’s New York Stadium on November 1, but she believes there is nothing for her team-mates and herself to fear.

“We know what a good side Arsenal are, they have some really good players with pace, nippy wingers and strong attributes across the pitch, so we have to treat them with lots of respect,” said the 20-year-old.

“However, we are confident we can reach the final. We look a real threat on the ball now in the attacking third with the pace of Kirsty (Linnett), Mel (Lawley), Kaz (Carney) and Freda (Ayisi).

“In turn, that gives the defenders and midfielders increased confidence as we look to get the ball into their feet and people throughout the team are taking responsibility on the ball.

“There’s a good competition for places which was shown by Cozza (Coral-Jade Haines) getting a starting spot on Sunday and every training session now is vital as people stake their claim for a place in the team – a situation which our improved form has helped create.”

The semi-final at Meadow Park will take place on Sunday, October 11 (3pm) and will be shown live on BT Sport.