‘I think we’ve probably been a bit hard on ourselves,’ says Bristol City’s Lauren Smith ahead of West Ham fixture

Rooted to the bottom of the Barclays Women’s Super League after four games, Lauren Smith insists that her Bristol City side have ‘probably been a bit hard on ourselves’ after failing to pick up a point thus far.

After suffering defeat against Arsenal despite an impressive performance just before the international break, Lauren Smith joked that she ‘wanted to play West Ham tomorrow.’ It was a viewpoint echoed by Carla Ward, and like the Villa manager, she accepts that in hindsight, it has come at a good time for her side.

‘It’s allowed us to reflect on [the Arsenal] performance – the good parts and the frustrating parts as well. We’ve looked quite deeply into West Ham and where we can keep our strengths and hopefully look at where we can pick on their weaknesses. It’s been a good period of reflection. We’ve had a lot of players away so there’s always a bit of watching their teams. They’ve had quite a challenging international period between their different teams that they’ve gone out with, which is great.’

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‘I like it when we get consistency in the squad,’ she continued, ‘I’m glad everyone’s come back well and they’re able to just kick on with it. I think I’m more average on that answer because everyone’s in a good place, however I think there was a bit between our teeth after the Arsenal game where I’d have liked to have taken that straight into a team. Obviously as time goes by, the emotion drops a bit so that was the reason I would have preferred to go straight through.’

Thankfully for Lauren Smith, her players have escaped from the international window without sustaining any injuries. Abi Harrison, Fran Bentley and Jesse Woolley are all recovering well from their pre-existing injuries.

‘Everyone seems to have come back well and ready for the weekend, so that’s a positive. Abi [Harrison] has been training throughout the international window so she could feature, we’re still figuring those bits out – but if it’s not this weekend, it’ll be the weekend after.’

‘Jesse Woolley’s a little bit further away. She’s on track but not at the same timeline as Abi right now. We had Fran [Bentley] on the pitch too, just starting her pitch rehab so she’s getting closer as well. It’s a positive moment, really.’

Smith acknowledged that West Ham are a strong team this season, bolstered by the managerial arrival of Rehanne Skinner. ‘We played them in pre-season as well, they got in behind us a few times,’ Smith recalled.

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‘They look clinical, they’ve got some really strong players in that starting team that can cause problems. They look really strong but they haven’t had the results they’ve wanted just now, but they’re probably looking to try and build on what they have got across the last run of games – especially that Liverpool one.’

The Bristol City boss also recognised that the quality across the league has increased exponentially, and that at this stage of the season, it can be hard to judge performances. ‘Leicester City have shown that they’re a good side and that they’ve made quite a few changes between last season and this one,’ she added.

‘They’ve pushed other teams really hard, and I think we were quite harsh on ourselves after that defeat, looking at what they’ve done since. Same with Spurs really, they’re the teams that we’re really in that bottom eight with – I think Spurs have designed a way of playing and really implemented it. I think we’ve probably been a bit hard on ourselves at times when we’ve compared ourselves to those two teams.’

‘I think it is early to start looking at [must-win games] because you probably wouldn’t have pipped that Villa would be down here with us either, so we know how quickly things can change in this league.’