Millie Bright meets a young fan after her side’s 2-0 win against Everton in the FA Cup. Boss Emma Hayes looks on. Photo Paul Lagan
Emma Hayes always tells it like it is and following her side’s 2-0 win over Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup, her description of the pitch, which almost saw the game postponed twice before being delayed an hour was apt - “It was crap,” she said.
“The (frozen) conditions made the game more of a leveller but I thought my team were dominant.”
With the freezing weather casing havoc and many of the cup matches cancelled, Hayes was relieved that game was completed but suggested she did have reservations about playing.
She said: “The safety of the players is all I care about. If the ref says it’s good to go, then it’s good to go, if it’s cancelled, then we rearrange it. It’s what’s best for the players.
“I’m not in charge of deciding if the pitch was best for the players. The referee’s deemed it appropriate. I guess we have to go with that decision.
“You’ve got to prepare to play even it’s an hour later or not. We just told the players to prepare as if it’s on, easy.”
Goals from Drew Spence - a beauty of a counter-attack, inspired by Fran Kirby and expertly finished off by the midfielder and a tap-in from defender Hannah Blundell on the final whistle earned the cup holders a place in Monday night’s fifth round draw, and Chelsea fully deserved their victory in Southport.
“We did the hard part, which is battling,” said Hayes.
“We had a lot of chances in the first half which we didn’t convert. It was important we started brightly in the second half. They had their opportunities, but our first goal came at a good time, we deserved it.”
Hayes was full of praise for England forward Fran Kirby who ploughed a somewhat lonely furrow up front
“We have been working hard in making sure we get numbers forward when we attack,” said Hayes.
“I thought Fran Kirby was outstanding, she led the line, played well. She’s been working really hard in training and the goals have come off the back of her.”
Hayes conceded their WSL1 title defence was long gone and is focusing on cup success this season.
“This is a competition we have done really well in the last four years” she said.
“We knew we had the toughest tie of the round, coming away, and we came through it with flying colours.
“We have to put everything into the cup as we don’t have the league to play for. We always make sure we have the right mindset. We had that today.”
The Blues face Manchester City on Wednesday night at home in the semi-final of the Continental Tyres Cup and could add Ali Riley and Beth England back to the squad.
Hayes said of their absence in the North West on Sunday: “They both needed a couple of days rest as they had viruses and will be back in training this week.”
As for facing their nemesis of the past couple of seasons, Hayes was in bring it on mood: “I’m looking forward to it’” she said.
“Playing Man City won’t be a surprise, we know each other really well. I’m sure it will be as closely contested as every game between us is.
“I’m always confident. We back ourselves to do well, It depends who shows up on the day. It’s a one-off game and a chance to compete in the first domestic final of the season.”
Supporting the Blues, as always is a cheerful and hearty group of ultra fans. They were few in number but vocal nonetheless at Southport.
Hayes as ever, is grateful for their contribution.
Typically mindful of the time and expense incurred following the team, Hayes said: “If the game was called off I would have paid for their bus to come up again, they are amazing.”