Pre-Match Report

Ladies: Arsenal v Birmingham - Preview

Steph Houghton

“I'm a bit of a sore loser,” Steph Houghton told “I've been in a bit of a bad mood for the last few days.”

It’s not surprising.

Since Houghton signed for Arsenal Ladies from Leeds United in 2010, losing has become almost alien to her. You just need to look at the list of honours she has accumulated since joining the Club to see why.

A brace of Women’s Super League and Continental Cup trophies and an FA Women’s Cup winners medal. Not a bad haul for two full seasons.

"All the girls were really looking forward to playing at the Emirates and we wanted to put on a show. It was just one of those days where nothing seemed to go right and we just couldn't get the ball in the back of the net"

Steph Houghton

Going into their WSL opener against Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night, the Ladies had not been beaten in 18 games domestically. No side had defeated them in the WSL since July 2011.

What happened next was a real shock. Matt Beard’s side, much improved from the outfit that finished bottom of the league last year, emerged with a 4-0 victory.

Not that the scoreline tells the whole story. Arsenal hit the woodwork three times, had three efforts cleared off the line and created numerous other opportunities. It was, to use a cliché, ‘one of those days’ for Shelley Kerr’s team.

“All the girls were really looking forward to playing at the Emirates and we wanted to put on a show,” Houghton said. “It was just one of those days where nothing seemed to go right and we just couldn't get the ball in the back of the net.

“At Arsenal, we're not used to losing. It's something that you don't want to experience as a player. When you've got such a winning habit like we do it hurts to have a 4-0 defeat.

“It was a bit of a shock. I know that we've got so many winners in the team and we want to put things right.”

Perhaps the perfect tonic after losing is to have another game soon after. It’s a chance for the team to quickly flush the disappointment out of their systems.

Birmingham City offer that opportunity in the Continental Cup on Saturday and, for Houghton, the game can’t come soon enough.

“We don't want to dwell too much on the defeat,” she said. “It hurts but we've got to look forward now and make sure that we put on a performance in front of our fans at Borehamwood on Saturday.

“I think it's important that we realise that we don't become a bad team overnight and after one defeat. It's the beginning of the season and it's going to be a very long season so we have to remain positive and stay together.

The sides have already met once this year. On that occasion, led by stand-in captain Houghton, the Ladies marched to a comprehensive 6-0 victory in the FA Cup quarter-final.

“That day was probably our best performance of the season,” she remembers. “Everything seemed to click. We all seemed to gel as a team and we managed to score six goals. We were clinical on that day and we've got to use that performance as an inspiration.

“We know that Birmingham will be tough. They've got some matchwinners in their side so we need to make sure that we focus on what we do best and put right things that didn't go for us on Tuesday.

“We always get good support at the Emirates and at Borehamwood and I just want to say thanks to all of the fans for coming and the support we were given throughout the game on Tuesday. Hopefully we can put things right on Saturday and get a win under our belts.”


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