Pot­ter wants to cast a dou­ble spell

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Frank Smith By Tony Leighton

JAYNE LUD­LOW re­mained up­beat de­spite los­ing her first com­pet­i­tive game in charge of Wales 3-0 in Aus­tria.

Lud­low took over the side in Oc­to­ber but their open­ing Euro 2017 qual­i­fy­ing game on Tues­day was her first game.

The for­mer cap­tain, who scored 19 goals in 61 ap­pear­ances for her coun­try be­fore re­tir­ing in 2012, could only watch on as goals from Katharina Schiechtl, Sarah Puntigam and Nina Burger sealed vic­tory.

Lud­low said:“There were many as­pects I was pleased with but the fact that we got done by two set plays, I’m not very pleased with.

“The last goal was a po­si­tional er­ror so there are things we can cor­rect and we can work on and build for the fu­ture.

“There were a few girls on that pitch who haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced in­ter­na­tional football be­fore so it was very pleas­ing to see their per­for­mances.”

Kim Lit­tle gave Scot­land the per­fect start to their Euro 2017 qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign with a hat-trick in the 3-0 vic­tory in Slove­nia.

The 25-year-old chipped the goal­keeper to give Anna Signeul’s side a half-time lead.

And then the Seat­tle Reign striker rounded the goal­keeper twice in the sec­ond pe­riod to ease the Scots to vic­tory.

Lit­tle said:“It’s al­ways nice to score goals for your coun­try, and to get another hat-trick is great. But most im­por­tant is get­ting the win.”

The Re­pub­lic of Ire­land were un­able to re­peat the Scot’s im­pres­sive work though, as they lost 2-0 to Fin­land.

A wickedly-de­flected cross by de­fender Emma Koivisto early on and Linda Sall­strom’s header mid­way through the sec­ond half was enough for Fin­land, as Ire­land rued poor fin­ish­ing.

North­ern Ire­land have to wait un­til Oc­to­ber 24 for their first Euro 2017 qual­i­fier, when they take on Ge­or­gia. IN­TER­NA­TIONAL glory; do­mes­tic sur­vival: those are the twin aims of Birm­ing­ham City and Eng­land midfielder Jo Pot­ter.

As she sets out on the na­tional team’s quest for 2017 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships gold, Pot­ter is at the same time look­ing to help her club team avoid rel­e­ga­tion from the top flight of the Women’s Su­per League.

Six days af­ter she was in the Eng­land side that trounced Es­to­nia 8-0 in the first of their Euro qual­i­fiers, Pot­ter will to­day step out for Blues know­ing that vic­tory over Notts County will en­sure WSL1 safety.

The 30-year-old for­mer Ar­se­nal, Charl­ton Ath­letic and Ever­ton player gave her­self a timely morale boost ahead of to­day’s game with what was her third in­ter­na­tional goal.

“I was a bit shocked to get a goal,” said Pot­ter, “even though we scored eight. I had a de­fen­sive mid­field role so didn’t ex­pect to get for­ward too much, but it was nice to show I can push for­ward ef­fec­tively as well as do my de­fen­sive du­ties.

His­toric

“In terms of goalscor­ing though, I was de­lighted for the two play­ers who made their de­buts and got their names on the score­sheet.

“Danielle Carter got a hat­trick – and I think she’s the first player to do that on de­but for the women’s team – and Izzy Chris­tiansen hit a fan­tas­tic goal.

“As a team we could prob­a­bly have scored more than eight goals, but it was a good score­line for us and most im­por­tantly it was a very solid per­for­mance from a side that showed so many changes from our last match.”

That pre­vi­ous game, 11 weeks ear­lier, was the 1-0 bronze medal win against Ger­many in the third­place play-off at the World Cup fi­nals in Canada.

Pot­ter was in Eng­land’s start­ing line-up on that his­toric evening in Ed­mon­ton and was one of only three play­ers (Manch­ester City col­leagues Steph Houghton and Jill Scott were the other two) who started in Es­to­nia.

“The fact that we per­formed so well de­spite hav­ing so many team changes – and in a 3-4-1-2 for­ma­tion that we’d not used be­fore – showed the strength in depth we’ve now got and the adapt­abil­ity of the play­ers,” said Pot­ter.

“With the pool of tal­ent that Mark Samp­son has now got to call on we’re in a po­si­tion to re­ally kick on from the World Cup suc­cess, and I be­lieve we can do even bet­ter when it comes to the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships.

“I’m con­fi­dent of win­ning our qual­i­fy­ing group and then, as long as we con­tinue pro­gress­ing as a team, we can go to the fi­nals feel­ing ca­pa­ble of win­ning gold.”

Reach­ing the Euro fi­nals should be well within Eng­land’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties as, in their qual­i­fy­ing group, they will be fac­ing teams that sit much lower than them­selves in the world rank­ings.

So friendlies such as Novem­ber’s meet­ing with Ger­many, ranked sec­ond in the world and a team Eng­land had never beaten be­fore this year, will be much tougher and more ben­e­fi­cial as Samp­son looks to fur­ther de­velop his team.

Pot­ter said: “We need to be play­ing the likes of Ger­many and Amer­ica if we are go­ing to keep on im­prov­ing.

“We played both of those na­tions in the run-up to the World Cup and those games showed us the lev­els we needed to reach to com­pete with the very best.

“We lost both games, but we learned in­valu­able lessons that we put to good use in Canada. Now we’ve got to step up another level to not

just

com­pete with but beat the world’s best on a con­sis­tent ba­sis.”

An Oc­to­ber friendly against a highly-ranked na­tion is set to be an­nounced this week, mean­while Pot­ter’s at­ten­tion has switched from Eng­land to Birm­ing­ham and the bat­tle to stay in WSL1.

They may be helped to­day by Manch­ester City, a vic­tory for whom over Bristol Academy will sen­tence Academy to rel­e­ga­tion even if Blues should lose to Notts.

But Pot­ter said: “We’ll be pay­ing no at­ten­tion to the Bristol game, we want to do the job for our­selves and we’ll be go­ing flat out to beat County.

“We had a poor first half of the sea­son, mainly be­cause of in­juries to key play­ers, but even though we’ve still been hav­ing in­jury prob­lems we’ve re­ally picked up.

“We’ve won seven of our last nine League and Cup games and so we’ll be go­ing to Notts to­tally be­liev­ing we can get the re­sult we want.”

Turn­around

A mea­sure of the turn­around in Birm­ing­ham’s form has been the re­sults of two re­cent meet­ings with WSL cham­pi­ons elect Chelsea.

In early Au­gust a crush­ing 4-0 league de­feat was suf­fered at Chelsea. Five weeks later re­venge was ex­tracted in the Con­ti­nen­tal Cup, Pot­ter her­self hit­ting the goal as Birm­ing­ham pro­duced a shock 1-0 win to reach the last four.

A semi­fi­nal win against Ar­se­nal or hold­ers Manch­ester City, whose quar­ter-fi­nal has not yet been played, would now take Blues into the fi­nal and a chance to end a largely dis­ap­point­ing sea­son on a tro­phy-win­ning note.

Beat­ing ei­ther of those two big guns would be another sur­prise, but Pot­ter said: “Morale and belief was high be­fore the Chelsea game and it will be the same again who­ever we have to play in the semi-fi­nal.

“We’re ab­so­lutely de­ter­mined to get to that fi­nal and then lift the tro­phy – win­ning the Conti Cup would be the per­fect way to round off our sea­son.”

PIC­TURE: The FA

LIONESS: Jo Pot­ter play­ing for Eng­land and in ac­tion for Birm­ing­ham, inset

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