Lauren Smith says there are things her Bristol City side ‘need to be aware of’ ahead of relegation six-pointer

Bristol City’s upcoming fixture in the Barclays Women’s Super League arrives dressed in great importance, as Lauren Smith’s Robins host a struggling West Ham United at Ashton Gate Stadium.

This Sunday’s clash arrives with a magnifying glass of attention pressed to its scoreline, as both Bristol City and West Ham United currently occupy the drop zone arm wrestle with an equal tally of five points on the board. Although a victory for either side appears crucial heading into the second half of the season’s proceedings, Smith assured that her side will not be ringing any alarm bells come Sunday’s fixture.

‘We’ve got to go into it knowing both outcomes can happen, and at this point of the season I still don’t think it’s that dramatic. We’re only just going into the second half, so we’re only now starting that second chunk. The fact that it’s the first game of the second set of fixtures, I think there is time on our side which is great if it doesn’t go our way. But also if it does, we need to be aware of that, because there is still time on anyone’s side right now.’

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The reverse fixture saw the Robins pick up the three points in what was their first and only victory of the league campaign, though this time the Irons arrive with a more threatening armoury. Rehanne Skinner’s winter window signings showed their immediate impact as West Ham faced a narrow 3-4 defeat in last Sunday’s arm wrestle with Tottenham Hotspur, as both Katrina Gorry and Kristie Mewis showcased what they look to bring to Dagenham.

Bristol City manager Lauren Smith spoke in regards to how her upcoming opponents differ as the reverse fixture approaches, highlighting how her side will aim to nullify the potential threats that those players may impose on her Robins side.

‘They’ve obviously strengthened in this window in their midfield, so they’ve made a great point to say that they want to do anything to stay up.’ Smith further added that ‘we’ve looked at her [Mewis] and Gorry, and what they add to the team that we already knew and how to play against them, what to expect. The set pieces from Mewis have probably changed the way that West Ham set pieces go, if I am honest. So, I definitely think there are things that we need to be aware of.’

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Speaking further in regards to her opponents, Smith reflected on the focal elements that her side are looking to bring in to battle with Rehanne Skinner’s side this weekend.

‘Rehanne’s going to be behind everything that they do, she’ll work hard, she’ll work for anything possible and I think that’s why players will go to West Ham for her. Yes there are some areas that we’ve highlighted that there are key areas to exploit. I think their strengths are in their counterattack, their forward line are really good, they are really dangerous from crosses so we’ll be working to nullify those things first and foremost.’

Despite a recent run of results, Megan Connolly has showcased some impressive moments in and amongst the Robins’ last line. Since signing over from WSL opponents in Brighton over the summer, Connolly has slipped into a leadership role with seamless fluidity. Smith spoke in high regard of the Bristol City captain, expressing that Connolly ‘epitomises’ both the club values, and what the side are hoping to achieve.

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‘Within a couple of weeks of her being in the building, she stood out as a captain for us. She’s well liked, she has good standards, she enjoys what she does, and she does it with a smile on her face. So, she epitomises what we do, even if she was brand new into the building.’

‘I really enjoy working with her – she’s great to have around, she really supports the players and the staff in a way a captain should.’

The Robins kick back off in the Barclays Women’s Super League at 2pm this Sunday, as Bristol City host West Ham United at Ashton Gate Stadium.