Chichester City Ladies welcome Liverpool Ladies to Oaklands Park in the FA Cup on Sunday insisting: We’re ready for you.
City have never been this far in the competition and never played a top-tier side but the visit of the mighty Reds has got the whole club and city excited.
Chi are training hard this week and are confident they can give Liverpool – currently fourth in the top division of the Women’s Super League – a run for their money.
Asked about the preparation, Chi manager Matt Wright said: “It’s been really good. We have got quite a lot of injuries, so we decided to give the players a rest last weekend, which has enabled them all to be ready to hit training at 100 per cent this week and then just be in the best shape for Sunday’s match.
“We are well prepared. All the girls are in good condition with them doing their individual work, and they will be in the gym over the next few days. The preparation won’t change a lot. We’ll just continue as we are.”
Chi Ladies have already collected £3,900 in prize money in their cup run, but a win over the Reds could add another £3,000.
The green army have beaten C&K Basildon 4-2, Luton Town 2-0 and The New Saints (TNS) on 5-4 penalties after a 1-1 draw to reach the last 16.
Chi have a 100 per cent record so far in 2018, also winning three games in a row, including their penalties victory over TNS.
Club captain Emma Alexandre will miss the game because of the concussion she suffered in the previous round of the cup against TNS.
Alexandre said she was gutted to miss the tie but the defender will be in support for the game at Oaklands Park and is confident the players can get a result against the Merseysiders.
“I am absolutely gutted but at the same time, I am going to be there for the girls. On the day, it is such a massive occasion for the club.” Alexandre said. “I am so excited for the girls and I know they will smash it.
“As a player you want to play every game, especially a game like this but for a small club like us, it’s absolutely fantastic and we deserve it.”
Chi City will also be missing Hollie Wride, Lucie Challen, Gracie White and Lou Robson through injury, with Laura Ingram being a doubt for the last-16 tie.
Liverpool Ladies are a full-time professional side, with many full internationals such as Casey Stoney, Siobhan Chamberlain and Alex Greenwood playing for England, and Alexandre knows the standard will be very high but also a good test to see where Chi are at.
Chi have lost only four games so far this season, losing one in their last seven games.
Chichester City were recently promoted into the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division, and are in mid-table in seventh place, playing 13 league games so far this season.
Three other teams from Chi City’s Women’s Premier South are still in the competition – Lewes FC, who play Everton Ladies, and Cardiff City and top-of-the-table Charlton Athletic face each other.
Wright said: “We have far exceeded anybody’s expectations. We are newly-promoted into the Women’s Premier League.
“We’ve turned over a couple of big teams and nobody expected to see us mid-table. It looks like we are surviving any danger of relegation already with more than half the season to go.
“All of our players are unpaid. They play because they love the club and they love being here and that’s something special when they’re working for each other and they’re working for the local community.”
Three Women’s Super League teams have been knocked out of the cup already in Reading, Bristol City and Yeovil Town and Liverpool will be anxious to make sure they do not add to that tally.
Liverpool are fourth in the top division of the Women’s Super League but lost 4-0 away to Man City on Sunday.
The tie will take place at 2pm on Sunday, with tickets being sold online, at the club and at Chichester College.
People can pay on the day as long as the 1,200-plus capacity is not reached. Adult tickets are £5, students and concessions get in for £4, children £2.
* Emma Lewry can’t wait to face Liverpool – but the Chichester City Ladies ace won’t mind if she doesn’t have to take another penalty.
The team’s second-top-scorer was the hero from the spot at Oswestry as City beat TNS Ladies 5-4 in a shootout to make it to this weekend’s fifth round, which brings the Reds all the way to Oaklands Park.
The attacking midfielder revealed after keeping her cool from 12 yards her last competitive spot kick was ten years ago – yet you would never have known from the way she smashed her kick into the roof of the net to clinch the victory.
She said: “I hate penalties! I’ve always hated penalties.”
When the time came for the shootout she volunteered to take one along with Chloe Tucker, Lauren Cheshire, Rebecca Barron and Jade Widdows – although she hoped she wouldn’t be needed.
Lewry said: “The other four all volunteered pretty quick and when the last place was up for grabs it went quiet. I think someone nudged me, so I put my hand up.
“I’m not going to lie, I was really nervous, but the girls really helped and kept me calm until it was my turn.
“I had hoped that by my turn it would be all over, and I wouldn’t be needed.
“I’m not sure I handled it that well, but I just kept saying to myself pick your spot and be confident. So that’s what I did.”
The pep talk must have worked as Lewry left the TNS goalkeeper rooted to her spot after Sadie Wilson-Blakely made the vital save one kick before.
Like the rest of her team-mates, now the chance to play a team from the Women’s Super League top division has Lewry champing at the bit.
She said: “It’s going to be an unbelievable experience for me. For me this season has been the highest level I’ve played at so to now play against a WSL1 side is amazing.
“I’m just going to enjoy myself and give it everything for the girls and the club.”
Against TNS in the last round, Kim Bebbington scored the opener for the hosts but Cherelle Khassal levelled in the second half, sending the game into extra-time.
The Green Army lost captain Emma Alexandre to a head injury, one that will keep her out of this weekend’s big game.
Liverpool sit fourth in the top level of the women’s football pyramid but they head into the match on the back of two heavy defeats.
Conceding seven goals in two games against Manchester City and Arsenal, the Reds will be licking their wounds ahead of the clash.
Chichester, on the other hand, are unbeaten in five games and their past three games have all seen victories in the FA Cup.
Chi will be facing a formidable side that includes players of international experience such as defender Casey Stoney and goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain. That experience shone through in the last round of the FA Cup with the Reds winning 5-0 over WSL2 side Watford.
A Beth England double and goals from Ali Johnson, Caroline Weir and Martha Harris ensured progress.
It was the first game the Reds had played in this year’s competition and they are still searching for their first FA Cup crown having been runners-up three times.
Chi City new signing Chloe Melton is available for selection but another new recruit, Natasha Stephens, is cup-tied – but boss Matt Wright will be looking to the up-and-coming younger players who have been showing their worth recently.
Players such as Alex Collighan, who already regularly features, and Alice Walford could be included – even Sophie Phelps will be hoping she impressed Wright when she made her second appearance for the club against TNS as a substitute.
Oaklands Park, Chichester
Tickets: Buy online, at Chichester College Sports Centre or on the gate.