Gareth Taylor has challenged his Manchester City charges to use their impressive league form as fuel for a tilt at a second Barclays FA Women's Super League title.
The 2016 champions have blown away Aston Villa and Brighton 7-0 and 7-1 respectively since the turn of the new year, leaving them third in the table at the halfway stage and just five points behind leaders Chelsea.
City have delivered the goods despite being hampered by Covid-19 cases, injuries and international call-ups in recent weeks, with Taylor himself missing the league win over Aston Villa and the Conti Cup quarter-final defeat to Chelsea due to self-isolation requirements.
Impressed with the way his wider squad have stood up to be counted and kept the team in the mix for top spot, the 47-year-old is confident City can strengthen their winning momentum ahead of February’s international break.
Taylor said: “We’ve had some good moments and some difficult moments so far - like most teams - but I’ve been really proud of how the girls have come together recently to keep us in the mix and we want to make sure that continues.
“I think you can find out a lot about people in those kind of situations when your back’s up against the wall, and it was amazing to see everyone commit to the cause like they did.
“I was really pleased with all of the performances in the last three games, and I’m obviously delighted we got maximum points in the league because it means our season is very much still in our hands.
“The games coming up in the next few weeks are probably going to have a big say in what happens with the league title, and the Champions League spots, and we won’t be underestimating anyone we come up against.”
Next in store for City is a home clash against 20119 FA Cup runners-up West Ham, who sit tenth in the league but have won three of their last five games in all competitions.
Taylor revealed that Sam Mewis - who picked up an ankle injury playing for the USA earlier this month - will miss the match alongside Gemma Bonner and Demi Stokes, while he urged fans to be patient with exciting new signing Abby Dahlkemper.
“Sam’s come back and it looks like it’s a bit of an old injury mixed with a new one,” he said. “This weekend will be too soon for her but there's a good chance she’ll be back next week.
“Gemma sustained a nasty injury in training. She’s progressing nicely but we’ll be without her for the next couple of weeks, and Demi is struggling slightly as she continues her comeback. We need to draw on the resources, and we’re going to have to ask the players to step up again.
“We need to give her [Dahlkemper] some time. We’re really pleased to have her, and I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve seen so far. We’ve got to make sure we support her in the right manner, and give her everything she needs to perform.”
And despite West Ham’s lowly league position, Taylor is braced for a tough encounter at the Academy Stadium on Sunday.
High-profile players Cho So-hyun and Alisha Lehmann left the Hammers earlier this week, but Taylor insists they will be a force to be reckoned with under new boss Olli Harder, who was appointed last month.
He added: “No game in the WSL can be viewed as an easy game. They’ve got a new coach, and they’ll be trying to implement a couple of new ideas.
“We need to make sure we attack the game with the same mentality as we did against Brighton - making sure we dominate the game as much as we can, and don’t underestimate anyone in the opposition squad.”