Kirk: Everton back in the running for top three after return to winning ways

Sportsbeat
·3 min read
Everton manager Willie Kirk (Action Images via Reuters/Molly Darlington)

Willie Kirk has urged his Everton players to build on their thumping 4-0 win over Bristol City as they look to chase down the top three in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.

The Toffees ended a five-game winless streak with a rousing showing on Sunday against the league’s bottom side, with a brace from England international Izzy Christiansen and further goals from Simone Magill and Megan Finnigan signalling the perfect start to 2021.

A run of four successive WSL wins and a charge to the 2019/20 FA Cup final had set tongues wagging ahead of a tricky spell before Christmas, but three points from their latest outing sees them sitting just six points behind third-placed Arsenal with a game in hand.

And, after overcoming a range of issues Kirk is confident his charges are back on track in their pursuit for a Champions League place, with the 42-year-old identifying Wednesday’s trip to Birmingham as the perfect opportunity to add to their winning momentum.

“We certainly needed that win,” admitted Kirk. “It was really important if we’re going to propel ourselves back into the running for those top spots and we’ve got a good chance to build on it now.

“I’d been reminded a few times that it had been a while since we’d won in the WSL. I think the fixture list was quite kind to us at the start of the season, and we felt the impact of playing Chelsea within a week of the FA Cup final.

“I think we were dealing with raised expectations - which is something we’ll learn from - and also one of our strengths at the start of the year was utilising the whole squad and keeping things fresh, but we picked up a few injuries.”

Everton’s squad is almost back at full strength now having felt the impact of Covid-19 over the festive period, while Kirk outlined his plans to add to his ranks before the end of the ongoing transfer window.

“We had six [coronavirus] cases at the club - five players and a member of staff - but they’re all back now,” he said.

“It’s been difficult to manage because there’s no real history to work off, but they’re all getting closer and closer to where they were, which is a huge positive.

“This transfer window perhaps hasn’t gone as smoothly as we would’ve liked for a few reasons - we’re now competing with the top teams for players, and players may be reluctant to move around during the pandemic, for example.

“But we’ve had real success in the last three windows, and we do expect to bring a couple in before the deadline, just to freshen things up more than anything else.”

Valérie Gauvin and Rikke Sevecke were among those to make substitute appearances against Bristol City, with Kirk expecting the duo to continue their injury comebacks at Birmingham.

Everton earned their FA Cup final spot at the expense of the Blues back in September, and Kirk is expecting a tough mid-week tussle with Carla Ward’s side at Damson Park.

The Scotsman added: “Everyone came through Sunday without any issues, and Claire Emslie will hopefully be back on the bench which will be another positive. Things are getting back to where they were in terms of having good numbers to choose from.

“I think Birmingham are a work in progress, and with that you get inconsistencies - I’ve seen some really good Birmingham performances and others that I know Carla’s not been happy with.

“Rachel Corsie left recently which will have left a big gap in their team, but they made us work really hard for our semi-final result and I’m certain they’ll make us work very hard on Wednesday night, too.”