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Women's Championship

Leandra Little on losing to Aston Villa and the title race

The weekend just gone saw what could go down as the Championship title decider when Sheffield United hosted Aston Villa. Top of the pile and yet to lose a game this season, Villa’s only blemish is a draw against Durham, in Chesterfield the Blades knew a draw would take them to the top of the league but a loss would leave them four points adrift.

The match was a cagey one, but for third time this season, it was Villa who came out on top, the match decided by an Emma Follis second half strike. Following the loss, we spoke to United captain Leandra Little.

WF: There was plenty of excitement coming into the game, but it clearly wasn’t one of Sheffield’s better performances, where do you think things went wrong?

LL: “I don’t think you can question any players work rate; every plyer that was out there was giving it their all. I think tactically, not necessarily through game plan just us as a group of individuals executing it out on the pitch and recognising when we needed to change it up, we needed to be a little more proactive in that. It took us until the second half to start showing belief and confidence in ourselves and getting on the ball and I think that came too late to be honest.

WF: First match of the new year, a slow start, maybe a little bit of winter rust that needed to be brushed off?

LL: “I don’t think we can use that as an excuse, a week before the match we had a friendly… the first one back is always the one you worry about but because we had that friendly – against good opposition, we played Leicester – it enabled us to blow those cobwebs off and we didn’t have any excuses coming into the match, we all felt good. I’m just really disappointed in not tot take anything from the game.

WF: They’re a tough team but maybe somewhat of a bogey team for you, does that play on the mind?

LL: “I don’t think so, as a player, if that type of thing plays on your mind I think… any team you come up against, you’d be afraid of.  It just gives you another opperunity to play them and try to right the wrongs of before. And at our home ground, on a pitch like this, we saw it as an opperunity but we didn’t really create a great deal that was there for us and their ‘keeper didn’t have to make any great saves to be honest.

WF: Obviously, there’s still a lot of the season to be played but the reaction after the match was quite clear, almost like a cup final…

LL: “It just wasn’t our day, we didn’t get it right unfortunately now we have to hope that someone else does us a favour because this league is so difficult to get out of with it just being the one up and it’s so competitive, you can’t put a foot wrong. All credit to them, obviously once they got the goal, defensively they made themselves strong and was hard to break down and they’ll be happy to take all three points after doing the job.

WF: Considering just how new this team overall, if it does come to the end of the season and you’re not the team to go up, would that not give the club and the team something to build on to strengthen those foundations and be ready for promotion and professional football when it does come?

LL: “To be fair, the club will have just wanted us to do better than last season but for us as a team and a group of individuals that have aspirations and are motivated with how well we have been playing… when we’ve put ourselves in touching distance, we really wanted it and started to believe that it could be our year but you can’t give away six points as we have done to Villa and expect to get something from it. It’s a really disappointing day for us as it’s now out of our hands and realistically, I can’t see teams taking six points off of us and it’s a bit of a sucker punch for us.

WF: Finally, it’s a quick turnaround to the next match – Manchester City in the Conti Cup quarterfinals – how hard will that be for the team; shaking this loss off and going up against one of the best sides in England?

LL: “Whenever you lose a game, as a player you’re always chomping at the bit to get the next one in so the fact that we have one midweek, even though we know it’s going to be a tough test, that’s great for me and great for the team. We have to recover right and that started as soon as the last was over, there will be some leggy players out there after Villa but come Wednesday, under the floodlights… midweek evening games is always one you can get yourself up for no problem.

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