Lauren Smith is ready for her first of many cup finals, as Bristol City attempt to move out of the relegation zone.

Sitting bottom of the WSL table, the Robins know they have to start picking up points.

The next two weekends could prove pivotal. After facing Leicester City, they take on Brighton after the international break.

Smith says City have a series of cup finals to end the season but is looking to facing off against sides she couldn’t get the better of before.

“We’ve been looking forward to the second half of the season and replaying the teams that we lost out to in almost naïve ways the first time around.

“Against Leicester we were fresh faced on the first day of the season and hopefully this time around we’ll be harder to play against.

“Same goes for Brighton.

“We were so close there and it went down to the wire, and that game still feels like one that hurt us, because we were so close to a point and that would have changed so many things in and around us.

“Ultimately, the next two games we want to have a real go and sink our teeth into them. But the next few weekends will be so key in order to see what the end will look like.”

After those two crucial games, City will have to navigate tricky ties away to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United.

Going into those games with a couple more points under their belt would be ideal, but Smith isn’t looking ahead to those tough battles just yet.

“We haven’t gone about focusing on particular games or looked at our position, because everything is so up and down around us.

“You can see how Brighton have done it and got wins against higher positioned teams, and we’re looking at ways we ourselves can get points out of those games.

“We’re playing teams around us now, but then we go into a run of teams above us, and considerably above us too.

“We can treat Leicester and Brighton as similar games, but when we go to Arsenal and Manchester United, those are similar games in a different way.

“In some ways we have to do it differently, but ultimately, we’ll go out into every game to try and get something on the board.”

Keeping levels up

Perhaps a hinderance that has come Smith’s way is the fact her side haven’t played in two weeks.

Their last game saw them pick up an important point away to Aston Villa, but they’ve had to wait a fortnight for their next tie.

Nevertheless, Smith says the team have prepared well and are ready to play.

“We always want to play, but it’s something we’ve had to wait for this time around.

“We’ve utilised the two weeks well, and it’s given us more time to prepare for a very important game. We’ve tried to use that to our advantage.

“We had an inhouse game with some academy players who were stepping up, so we remained on task and fully loaded.

“It wasn’t like we downed tools, we stayed focus in order to be in the best shape possible for this weekend. Hopefully, we can put a good performance in.”

First day replay

This weekend sees Bristol City travel to take on Leicester, the side they faced off against on the opening day of the season.

It was certainly a big occasion not only for the club, but for the city of Bristol.

While they were defeated, Smith remembers the game and everything that came with it.

“I just remember that the game itself was a rollercoaster; they scored and then we scored, and they scored again.

“I felt like we had a lot of lessons from that game, I say that a lot, but that game in particular taught us a lot.

“I think we went into that thinking Leicester were the Leicester of old, but they were a strong team to play against and we struggled to get the ball past Sophie Howard that week.

“I really enjoyed the game and the experience. The crowd were unbelievable, and it was a great feeling to be out there with them.”

Since then, Bristol have grown as a team and an organisation, and Smith is eager to put the lessons they’ve learned since opening day to the test on Sunday.

“We’ve evolved in quite a lot of ways since then. We’ve had to grow up quite quickly, learn those lessons, but equally it’s changed.

“The shape we play is different, but the style remains the same. Meg Connolly was playing in the midfield but has played in the back line a few times.

“We’ve really found our footing since that first game and I’m excited to see how it looks now after so many weeks.

“Win, lose or draw, as long as we leave everything out there in this particular cup final then I’ll be happy.”

Despite all that, Leicester represent a difficult challenge.

Smith was full of admiration for her opposite number, Willie Kirk, and is expecting to face a very attacking side come Sunday afternoon.

“Willie has recruited really well and build a good team there.

“He’s got some great players at his disposal, and he’s had three windows now where he’s made huge signings to strengthen his squad.

“You can see he’s gotten stronger in each window, and that allows him to play a more expansive brand of football.

“They’re a really attacking team who want to outscore you and are transitional in terms of wanting to get in behind quickly. They’re a strong team in the mid-table group.”