Safety will be the driving motivator for managers Kelly Chambers, Willie Kirk and Vicky Jepson on the penultimate weekend of Women’s Super League action. Chambers’ eight-year stay in the league with Reading could come to an abrupt ending this weekend if they lose against Jepson’s struggling Tottenham on Saturday and if 11th-placed Leicester beat a West Ham team lacking in confidence. Victory for Reading means Kirks’ Foxes would, with a draw or defeat on Sunday, find themselves at the bottom of the table heading into the final game.
Chambers, who has been at Reading for more than 20 years – both as a player and in various coaching roles – says her side need to continue to prove the doubters wrong. She said: “I think, if we’re all brutally honest, many would have predicted us to be in the position we are in. Some have said it from the moment we were promoted. But time and time again we’ve proved what we’re about and on Saturday we need to do it again.” Reading, who were promoted to the WSL in 2015, have not won in seven matches, with their last league victory coming against West Ham in early March. Chambers has instructed her players to look no further than Saturday’s crunch fixture, saying: “This Saturday there will be no place to hide.”
When Kirk took over from Lydia Bedford as Leicester manager in November, the Foxes had no points from their opening six matches. By Christmas time, there had been no improvement and Leicester looked like firm favourites to go down. However, fast forward five months and Kirks’ team have picked up 13 points along the way, and if they win their two remaining games – against West Ham and Brighton – they will have secured their WSL status for a third successive season. Leicester defender Ashleigh Plumptre said: “We’ve got ourselves into a good position knowing that, at Christmas, a lot of people kind of counted us out.” Depending on Reading’s result on Saturday, Leicester could confirm their safety at King Power Stadium, which should act as an “added incentive” to Kirk’s players. Kirk said: “The fans have been fantastic and it would be so nice to confirm our WSL status in front of them. Mathematically, if we find out at the full time on Sunday that we’ve stayed up, it’d be fantastic. What I’ve found is the more pressure we’ve put on the players the better that responded. It gives us an opportunity to climb up even more places if Reading beat Tottenham, because Tottenham are in touching distance. So if we are being greedy we might prefer that.”