WOMEN'S WEEKLY

Posted on: Wed 23 May 2012

It's a massive week for the Chelsea Ladies as Matt Beard's side prepare to take on Birmingham City in the FA Cup Final this Saturday, and as the manager explains, we couldn't be going into the game in better shape following our recent exploits.

In our hands
The Blues remain firmly on course to reach the knockout stages of the FA WSL Continental Cup after seeing off Liverpool 2-1 at Wheatsheaf Park just over a week ago.

Helen Lander put us in the ascendancy inside the opening minute, and when Dunia Susi doubled our advantage early in the second half the game appeared to be over.

Liverpool, however, pulled one back, setting up a nervy finish, but some resolute defending late in the game ensured our fate now rests in our own hands, as Beard explains.

'We changed the team around to give a few players who hadn't been playing some game time,' he tells the official Chelsea website. 'Sophie Gwilliam made her debut, Ashlee Hincks started her first game, Sue Lappin got 90 minutes under her belt and it was good to keep everybody fresh.

'It just shows our strength-in-depth. We dominated the first half, and then after going 2-0 up gave away a sloppy goal. We were pleased with the result, particularly given the changes to personnel, and we're still in the frame to go through to the knockout stages as Arsenal got beat by Lincoln. If we win at Arsenal next month we're through, so at least it's in our hands.'

Back on track in the league
A week later, another Merseyside outfit headed south to take on the Blues, this time it was back to league action against a strong Everton side, but a wonderful performance saw us come from behind to run out 3-1 winners.

Beard was understandably delighted with the result, and while he admits we could have scored more goals, he paid tribute to Lander, who scored an impressive hat-trick.

'We started the first half really well, Everton then got on top and took the lead,' says Beard. 'We equalised right on the stroke of half-time, made a few tactical changes at the break and then went on to dominate the game. In all honesty, we could quite easily have scored more than the three we did get.

'Helen scored a good hat-trick. The first one was a poacher's goal, Dunia [Susi] did well down the right and she slotted home the cross. The second was a very good finish and the third was a volley following a defensive error.

'It was great to get the three points as Everton are one of the strongest teams in the league. Hopefully, we're starting to prove that these results we're getting aren't flukes. I've said time and again that as the season progresses we're only going to get stronger.

'We've got eight points on the board, we're probably two off where I think we should be at the moment but with each game, performances are improving and we're finding the right levels of consistency.'

Cup fever beckons
Bristol City's Ashton Gate is the venue for this Saturday's FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Birmingham, where we will be hoping to make it a clean sweep for the club in the competition following wins for both the men's first team and youth team, as well as the women's Under 17s.

Beard believes his side will relish the opportunity to showcase their ability in front of a crowd expected to be in excess of 15,000, and insists confidence in the camp at present is high.

'We've got the momentum with us, we beat Arsenal in the semi-final, now we've just beaten Liverpool and Everton who are all good sides,' says Beard.

'We deserved to beat Arsenal, we were the better team for 90 minutes, they put us under a bit of pressure but we dealt with it well.

'People underestimate us which is a good thing, we've been utilising the exploits of the first team in our team talks lately, we've done a lot of classroom work with the players in regards to what they can and can't control out on the pitch and it's been paying off.

'Birmingham are a good side with a lot of international players, very physical and direct, they remind me of the Wimbledon side under Dave Bassett. They get the ball down when they can and they have some gifted technical players.

'Hopefully on the day we can go out and put a performance on. We're not under any pressure, we're not expected to win the game and we'll just go and enjoy the occasion. We've got a strong blend of youth and experience.'

The Women's FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Birmingham City takes place at Bristol City FC on Saturday 26 May, the game kicks off at 12.15pm. Tickets are priced at £5 for adults and £2.50 concessions, and are available on 01179 630 600, or by clicking here.

Wheelchair bound supporters pay the full adult admission price and the escort is free of charge. The same policy applies to ambulant disabled.

The match will be broadcast live and exclusive on Sky Sports 2.