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Matt Beard admits Bristol City face ‘huge task’ to shock Chelsea in cup final

Everton v Bristol City – FA Women’s Super League – Walton Hall Park
(Image credit: Martin Rickett)

Interim boss Matt Beard has emphasised Bristol City are “not in it to make the numbers up” as they prepare for Sunday’s Continental League Cup final against Chelsea.

The Robins are very much regarded as the underdogs heading into the Vicarage Road clash with holders Chelsea, the Women’s Super League champions and leaders who beat them 5-0 at Twerton Park last month.

Beard says that while a “huge task” lies ahead against Emma Hayes’ side, “anything can happen in a cup final”, and he has pointed to the example of Wigan’s 1-0 win over Manchester City in the 2013 men’s FA Cup final.

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He told a press conference on Thursday: “We had a great win on Monday night (3-2 against Reading) and we’re in good form at the moment, so confidence is high in the group and there are lots of smiles on everyone’s faces.

“We know this is a huge task on Sunday but it’s a cup final and anything can happen in a cup final. We’re really looking forward to it.

“Chelsea are a world-class side, full of internationals, so whatever XI they pick, it’s going to be a tough afternoon for us.

“We’re not in it to make the numbers up and it’s not a foregone conclusion by any stretch of the imagination.

“I said to the players yesterday about the men’s cup final between Wigan and Manchester City – things happen in football, there are some shock results on days, and if we manage to pull that off, what an achievement it would be. But we know it’s going to be a tough task.”

Beard took temporary charge at the club in January until the end of the season, coming in as maternity cover for boss Tanya Oxtoby.

The team subsequently secured a place in Sunday’s final with a 1-0 win over Leicester, and they have taken seven points from five WSL games under Beard, moving off the foot of the table with Monday’s result, at the expense of his old club West Ham.

Oxtoby, whose baby is due this month, is set to be in attendance on Sunday.

Beard came in as maternity cover for Tanya Oxtoby, who is set to be in attendance on Sunday (Bradley Collyer/PA).

Beard came in as maternity cover for Tanya Oxtoby, who is set to be in attendance on Sunday (Bradley Collyer/PA)

And Beard said: “It’s great for her to be there because she has been a big part of this journey, getting the team into the semi-final. Then I helped them cross the line to get to the final.

“Tanya has had a great impact at this club over the last few years. I can’t imagine, being pregnant and getting Covid (in November) and going through this pandemic, how tough it’s been (for Oxtoby). She’s a great person and has been great for the club.

“My main aim when I came in was to keep the team up. This has been a welcome distraction, because it has given us confidence to put in the performances we have in the league.”

Ebony Salmon’s winner on Monday was a third goal under Beard and sixth of the season for the 20-year-old, who made her England debut last month.

England forward Ebony Salmon (right) scored the winner against Reading on Monday (John Walton/PA).

England forward Ebony Salmon (right) scored the winner against Reading on Monday (John Walton/PA).

“When we get our chances, we need to take them,” Beard said.

“We have Ebony Salmon, who is on fire at the moment, and we’re getting goals from other players as well.”

Asked if a trophy or another season in the WSL would be more important for the future growth of the club, Beard said: “If you were asking Tanya that, she’d say WSL. I’d say the WSL because it’s the best league in the world.

“That’s where the team want to be and I think with the quality of players we have here, they deserve to be there.”