By Chris Harris
"We are normally at our best when we are hurting and we were definitely hurting after last week."
Those words, uttered by Arsenal Ladies manager Laura Harvey, should sound the alarm bells for Lincoln City Ladies ahead of tonight's WSL clash. Quite simply, the hosts can expect a backlash after the Gunners lost their unblemished record with a 2-1 defeat to Birmingham last week.
That result left Arsenal six points behind their conquerors - albeit with a game in hand - and prompted Harvey to suggest that her team could not afford to drop any more points if they wanted to secure the inaugural WSL title.
As she prepared to head north, Harvey called for her players to show their mettle and get back on track.
"We have to prove that we can bounce back so tonight's game is really important," she told Arsenal.com. "The way we gave the goals away against Birmingham was very disappointing because I thought we played some of our best football over the last six months on the night.
"We know as a group that we need to stop making silly mistakes but also we need to be more clinical in front of goal. In the middle part of the game we really bossed it and we were excellent in the first half last week. We faded a little bit in the second half but we still had the game comfortably in our hands.
"We trained last night, regrouped and we are very positive. We have been through a lot over the last 12 months, from last year’s FA Cup Final defeat and all the way through our Champions League campaign, it’s not been easy.
"We are getting used to a bit of adversity which, as a team, Arsenal have not had a lot of over the last couple of years. We have got to prove tonight that we can deal with that and can bounce back quickly.
"It is massively important to do that. I think Lincoln are a team that need a win but if you look at their position in the league it is probably a little bit false. They have drawn against teams, haven’t conceded a lot of goals and every game they have played has been tight. They aren’t going to be a pushover and we are going to have to work really hard."
Lincoln are already fighting a relegation battle after taking two points from their first four fixtures but women's football has changed. A trip to a club languishing in the bottom two used to mean three points and a glut of goals but not any more.
Harvey, who has lost Jayne Ludlow and Faye White to injury, will be boosted by the return of Steph Houghton from a knee problem. All the same she remains wary.
"They have got players that have played in the Premier League for a long time and some international players in their squad," she said.
"I think they are going to be a very hard team to beat and very hard-working. They rely a lot on set-pieces and restarts but we are ready for that. I think tonight is mainly about us rather than the other team. If we go out, do our job properly and learn from the mistakes we made last week, any team will find it hard to beat us.
"We have got to make sure our mindset is right. After training yesterday, I know we are going in the right direction."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 4 May 2011