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Women's Charlton preview

3 October 2020

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United women goalkeeper Fran Kitching says the team is looking to build on a positive start to the season ahead of three away games in the space of a week.

Neil Redfearn's side go to Charlton Athletic this Sunday looking for a third win in four games, before another away trip in the league to Coventry United next weekend.

In between those matches is another clash with last season's rivals Aston Villa in the Continental Cup, a competition in which United won their group last time around.

Coming off the back of a 4-0 win against London Bees, Kitching is pleased with the way the team has started but believes it could and should have been even better.

"I said in pre-season that for the team it felt like this season was unfinished business and that's obviously something I'm now a part of. Our aim is to win as many games as possible and as Redders always says, to keep as many clean sheets as possible and we got our first one last weekend.

"The Leicester game felt like a loss because we didn't deserve to draw, we deserved to win, but it's a great start and to see how many goals the front three have scored shows how hard everyone's been working."

The Blades only managed two clean sheets in the league last season despite ending the curtailed campaign second in the table, but an assured defensive display saw Kitching get her first of the season on Sunday, and the former United academy product is pleased to get a confidence boosting result under her belt.

"I was buzzing with it to be fair! It was one of those games where you always think there's a chance of a clean sheet because we were on top so much. I remember Tom [Pressman, goalkeeper coach] kept saying to me there's always going to be a chance, just stay on the front foot, be aware, and we defended really well as a team. It was a concentration game for me because I didn't have that much to do."

United's resilience has been all the more impressive given the back four is largely an unfamiliar one to Kitching, bar club captain Leandra Little.

With new signing Ellie Wilson slotting in seamlessly, Chloe Dixon has maintained the right-back position while Veatriki Sarri and Ali Johnson have split left-back duties. Kitching though says everyone has worked hard to build up a good understanding as a unit early on.

"I think we have, definitely. At the start, we didn't really know how each other played. I've played with Leandra before so we know each other and the relationship between all of us has been really good. There's been a couple of changes in the back four between games but that hasn't affected us at all because we've worked on it so much in training."

Kitching and the team now begin a tough week which will see them travel to London and two trips to the midlands, hoping for six more points in the FA Women's Championship and a positive start to the club's Continental Cup campaign.

Despite a lowly finishing position last season, Riteesh Mishra's Addicks have already picked up four points this season and Kitching doesn't expect an easy task come Sunday.

"I don't think we should underestimate any team. Charlton will have fire in their bellies after the Liverpool result because they've had a couple of good results before that. I think they'll be looking to build on that and bring that to us. I think if we focus on us, the way we play and the way we've been playing for the last few weeks then we'll get the job done."

The prospect of a midweek away trip followed by another away game next weekend gives Redfearn a first opportunity to utilise his whole squad.

After the late additions of Olivia Chance and Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, plus several players returning from injury, United's depth is at an all-time high and Kitching backs any player to come in and perform to the standards the team has set themselves over the coming week.

"I don't doubt any of us. We have really good depth, I don't think any sub will change how we play or we perform. Everybody's on the same page, everyone knows what Redders wants from us and I think if there are changes made between games then we're all still aiming for the same thing which is three points and a clean sheet."

The addition of Sweetman-Kirk in particular adds even more firepower to an attack which has already scored 10 goals between them in three games, and Kitching more than anyone knows what to expect from the new forward after spending two years playing with her at Liverpool.

"She's very happy to be here I think. I'm a very honest person and when she first turned up I said how well the front three have been playing and she'll probably have to be patient, but she understands that.

"I think in our team we have a lot of grafters. Nobody expects to play every week, not me, not anyone. Redders always says you're only as good as your last game and Courts like anyone will come in and work hard, that's the ethic we have at Sheffield United."

Sheffield United Women travel to Charlton Athletic on Sunday 4th October, 2pm, the game will be played behind closed doors. Extended highlights and the full match will be available to watch on Monday on the FA Player.

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