Off the back of their Continental Cup loss to Arsenal, we spoke to Bristol City boss, Tanya Oxtoby about the sloppy goals conceded by the Robins and their place in the league.
Having exerted themselves on Sunday against Reading from two goals down to grab a late draw, the last thing Bristol needed was a midweek cup game against a rampant Arsenal side. And whilst the team did well to hang in over the first half, the young side buckled after the break, but the Robins’ coach could still see positives despite the scoreline.
“I think from our perspective it’s great to see four academy players on the pitch, you look at our budget, you look at Arsenal’s budget; it’s chalk and cheese and we have to keep that in perspective. Three games in seven days against Reading, Arsenal and Man City, it’s tough, we’ve rotated the squad and given people opportunities and to be honest, the goals are sloppy and that’s something we need to tighten up on but overall, the performance in the first half particularly was very good.”
Having tried to rotate her squad where possible, it was clear the own goal just before the break [to make it 2-0] took a lot out of the team, concentration levels dropping throughout the game to give the Gunners too many chances.
“I think it’s fatigue, you look at it, a lot of the players probably haven’t played a lot of minutes so they’re chasing shadows for 85 minutes, you know you’re bound to concede but from our perspective, they’re sloppy goals. I think, one’s come from our throw in, one’s an own goal, there’s an error down there where it should have been saved and there’s one in off a free kick so that’s four right there that’s not acceptable but it is what it is and we just have to pick ourselves up and go again for Sunday.”
All but out of the league cup after the heavy loss, Oxtoby wasn’t overly fussed about missing out on a knock-out game in the new year. For the team currently eleventh in the table [with three draws and three losses], survival is paramount.
“For us, our focus is the league and we make no apologies for that, given where we are, we’re battling, and we need to make sure that’s our priority.”
A team that has no delusions of grandeur, Bristol weren’t going to come out guns blazing against Arsenal (or many teams), the team is built from the back, the tactic of reducing space quite a clear one as their coach explained.
“For us we, we like to think we’re dangerous on the counter so it’s not necessarily just sitting in for no reason, we’re looking to try and exploit going the other way, but we never really got going in that aspect. I thought we troubled them once or twice in the first half, second half was better but from our perspective, when you play teams like this, you have to limit the spaces that they’re allowed to play in and for us we didn’t want them to come through the middle so for us that means we have to be compact and concede some space in wide areas and I thought we did that well in the first half.”
Having brought through some of the top talents in the league, Bristol struggle to keep a hold of their star performers and have seen attacking threats like Lauren Hemp and Lucy Graham depart in consecutive years. But having recruited smartly over the summer, the team still carries a threat however, with a number of younger players on their books there is a certain learning curve for many at the club.
“It’s tough and when you look at our budget compared to others, but it is what it is. And we’ve got a remit where we offer opportunities for players that maybe aren’t getting game time elsewhere and that’s a positive but what that means is you’re getting players in and you have to teach them because they’re young and don’t have the game management that other players do so there’s positives and there’s downsides to everything.”
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