By Chris Harris
Arsenal Ladies have had to grind their way to twin wins at the start of their WSL campaign. According to Laura Harvey, it is only going to get harder when Birmingham come to town.
The early pacesetters visit Meadow Park this week having scored nine goals and conceded none in their first three games. Arsenal have kept the back door just as firmly shut but they have not been as free-flowing as Birmingham and their manager expects a "formidable" test on Thursday night.
"They have got a brand-new team really, with new staff and a new squad," Harvey told Arsenal.com.
"The men’s team are backing them now which is such a massive thing for them having not had it for such a long time. They have started off the season as brightly as people expected they would. They have not conceded a goal yet and have scored nine so they are formidable opponents.
"They are physically strong with a good forward line and players that can score goals but I think we’ve got to go into it knowing that we have got to put our experience into practice. If we can do that, we can come away with a victory.
"I think, domestically, it’s going to be our toughest game of the season so far but we are fully prepared for it."
Arsenal have had a pretty decent week of their own of course. Jennifer Beattie's spectacular winner against Bristol Academy maintained their unblemished start to the inaugural WSL season and a 5-0 thrashing of Barnet on Sunday booked a place in the FA Women's Cup Final - and next season's Women's Champions League.
"The pressure is off a little bit after that," admitted Harvey.
"I think that was our first priority, to make sure that we are in the Champions League for next year. But this year’s Super League still accounts for next season’s Champions League. So we have still got to make sure that the league games are taken care of.
"At the moment Arsenal and Birmingham are the top two teams in the league. I’m sure Thursday night will be a good test for both teams."
Arsenal will go into that test without their two most senior players. Captain Faye White limped off during the first half against Bristol and is seeing a specialist this week to ascertain the extent of her injury while Jayne Ludlow is still troubled by an Achilles problem.
"They both look to be quite long-term [injuries]," revealed Harvey. "We have been without Jayne for the majority of the season and we’d like to get them back as quickly as possible.
"Losing two experienced players for a long period is always tough. But how our season is, because the games come so thick and fast, we might be able to get them back for the second half of the season.
"We’ve just got to get through these next four games over the next three weeks and then try to get everyone fit for the second half of the season, which doesn’t start until the end of July. So it gives us a little bit of time to get everyone back to full fitness if we can."
Thursday's game kicks off at 7.45pm at Boreham Wood FC. Come along and give your support to the Ladies.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 27 Apr 2011