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Kick off 14:00 (UK)

06 September 2020 Venue Princes Park, Dartford Attendance

Kick off 14:00 (UK)

London City Lionesses
1 - 4
Sheffield United

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Match Previews

Maddy Cusack praises new boss

5 September 2020

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Sheffield United Women midfielder Maddy Cusack says it's been "massive" for the squad to have new head coach Neil Redfearn come in ahead of this Sunday's FA Women's Championship opener away at London City Lionesses.

Redfearn will take charge of the team for the first time, the squad's first since February, in south London this weekend and Cusack, who has been a regular since joining in January 2019, is looking forward to the start of a new period under the former Doncaster Rovers Belles and Liverpool manager.

"Neil has been great and he's definitely the best person to take us forward. "Everyone's really excited to be working with him and that's shown in training so far because the sessions have been great. The intensity has been great, we've played some really good stuff and I'm really looking forward to seeing how that translates onto the pitch on Sunday."

The 55-year-old, who also managed both Leeds United and Rotherham United in the men's game, isn't completely unfamiliar to some members of the squad.

New club captain Leandra Little also served the same role as the Belles won the FA WSL 2 title back in 2018, while Jade Pennock, Sophie Walton and Emily Batty were also part of Redfearn's successful squad.

"All the girls can't speak highly enough of him and ever since he's come in, I can't speak more highly of him. He's been great for us and I'm sure that will continue for the rest of the season, and I know the girls who have worked with him before were delighted when he came in."

Cusack, like anyone, has been itching to get back into the action since the team's last game back at the end of February against Blackburn Rovers, which ended in a 5-1 win for the Blades.

But the final six games of the FA Women's Championship campaign never materialised and after a pre-season which has seen the team have to adapt to new COVID-19 protocols, Cusack can't wait to get back out on the pitch on Sunday

"It's been such a long time since we last played, so we're really looking forward to getting into the new season now.

"Pre-season has been very, very different for a number of reasons, obviously all the COVID-19 protocols mean we've not trained that much together as a team compared to other seasons, due to having to train in bubbles for a while. We've had to adjust to a new manager but we've all come together and we're all ready and raring to go for Sunday.

The fixture list has thrown up an away game at London City Lionesses who finished fourth in their debut campaign last season.

The Blades walked away with a 2-1 victory in the same fixture last December, with the first 45 minutes in particular one of the best halves of football the team put together during a campaign which saw the side rise to second in the table.

Cusack is under no illusions Sunday's encounter will be another tough one and believes the league as a whole is getting stronger and stronger.

"The 45 minutes last time out we were frightening. We passed the ball about so well, but second half they came into it and it shows you have to be on it for 90 minutes to get results in this league. It shows we need to be consistent in our performances and that's something we're working hard on.

"The league has strengthened a lot since last season. You've got three full-time teams now so we're under no illusions that we will have to be at the top of our game to get results and get points out of a game and that's what we're all striving for and preparing for and we have been for the past few weeks."

One thing the Blades shouldn't struggle with as they look to go one better than last season is goals. Last season's golden boot winner Katie Wilkinson signed on for another season, as did Jade Pennock who ended the season as the third top scorer in the league.

Mel Johnson, who split the pair for Aston Villa, has also joined, meaning United have the top three scorers in the league from last season.

Cusack, who found the net herself three times last season, believes the Blades front line is "frightening" but is aiming to contribute more from midfield this time around.

"We have three of the best attacking players in the league and they've shown they are that kind of calibre. From a personal point of view, I scored a couple last season and I want to build on that and help the team. Goals are definitely one of my targets so if I can get more than last season, that would be great.

The Blades sat six points behind eventual champions Aston Villa when the season was curtailed with six games to go, leaving a sense of unfinished business for Redfearn's new side heading into the new season.

With the determination to go one step further this season, Cusack admits that is the goal for every single member of the squad.

"It was so strange how it all ended. We had a lot of games to play and anything could have happened. We definitely want to go one better this year, that's everyone's goal and what everyone wants to achieve, so if we work hard on and off the pitch, hopefully it's something we can achieve and something we can work towards."

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Match Reports

London City Lionesses 1-4 United Women - report

6 September 2020

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Sheffield United Women cruised to an impressive 4-1 win away at London City Lionesses on the opening day of the new FA Women's Championship season.

Two goals from forward duo Jade Pennock and Katie Wilkinson allowed the Blades to see out the final half an hour in what was an almost perfect opening game for new head coach Neil Redfearn.

The new boss handed debuts to Fran Kitching, Ellie Wilson and Mel Johnson but the Blades had to work their way into a game which saw few chances early on.

Efforts from distance from Veatriki Sarri and Rhema Lord-Mears signalled intent as the Blades gradually gained control of the match.

Just after Wilkinson hit the post, good work from Johnson set up Pennock who promptly slopped home her first of the season.

Johnson herself was denied by a good save before the hosts equalised after the break when Freda Ayisi curled past Kitching from the edge of the box.

A stunning Chloe Dixon block denied a complete turnaround, and the visitors used that as motivation to put the game to bed with three goals in 10 minutes.

Pennock took advantage of a defensive mix-up to tap home a second before turning provider for Wilkinson who headed home her first of the afternoon and the season.

The Blades number nine created her second, running in behind and winning a penalty which she stepped up and slotted home into the corner.

There was a debut off the bench for Sophie Walton while Ali Johnson also made her return to the team, and Redfearn was delighted with how his side performed.

"We were excellent against a decent opponent. They gave us problems at times but we were resolute and I thought it was a really good away performance.

We really got on the front foot after they equalised, it was a great reaction and superb in the end. I was really pleased with the unsung roles in the team too. I thought Naomi Hartley was excellent playing midfield and our two centre-backs were great, Ellie Wilson was outstanding on her debut and Fran made a couple of really good saves and deserved a clean sheet.

I was always aware of what Wilkinson and Pennock could do from seeing them last season and really they've just picked up the mantle. That understanding they have is there for everyone to see.

You can only beat what's in front of you and I think we've beaten a really decent side today. It was a good game of football, both sides played their part and in the end it's an excellent result for us."

Blades: Kitching, Wilson, Little, Hartley, Lipka, Pennock (Matthews 81), Wilkinson, Dixon, Lord-Mears (Walton 65), Sarri, M. Johnson (A. Johnson 57).
Unused subs: Batty, Watson, Docherty.

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