Andy Spence admitted an uncharacteristically slow start cost Everton Ladies as they opened 2018 with a defeat at Bristol City.
The Vixens’ Lauren Hemp opened the scoring at the Stoke Gifford Stadium after just 10 minutes, lashing into top corner from close range, and added to her tally after the break from the penalty spot.
In between, the Blue Girls found themselves chasing the game, an unusual position given their strong form of late, which has seem them beat Yeovil Town and Sunderland.
They did manage to pull a goal back via Courtney Sweetman-Kirk but it wasn’t enough as City held on for the victory.
“We’ve had to chase the game because we started slow and that’s very unlike us,” Spence told evertonfc.com. “Over the season we have started matches really well. Against Bristol, we haven’t managed to do that and conceded a poor first goal.
“We did get back into it - certainly the last 15 minutes of the first half we were the better side. The second half was scrappy and I want to see the penalty incident back again because it looked a little bit soft from where I was stood.
“But Bristol played the game really well. When they had opportunities to slow the game down, they did, and maybe we need to control that a bit better. We tried our best to do what we normally do but on Saturday we couldn’t do it.”
Spence introduced Simone Magill and Mollie Green in the second half, switching from a 4-3-3 formation to a 3-4-1-2 system in a bid to bring more of Everton’s attacking threat to bare.
The move paid dividends when Sweetman-Kirk bundled home following a goalmouth scramble and the Toffees striker then had the ball in the net again, only to see it ruled out for offside.
A frustrating evening for the Blue Girls but Spence is confident his squad will bounce back quickly.
“We brought players off the bench and I thought they did great,” he added. “Simone, Mollie and Olivia Chance have come on and helped really push us forward looking to force an equaliser. Unfortunately it didn’t quite come.
“This is really the first game of the season where we are disappointed with our level of performance. I said to the girls afterwards that that happens from time to time and we will learn from it. I’d like to think it is a one off because I have a group of players who won’t let this become a habit.
“We will dust ourselves down, work hard in training and make sure we are ready Chelsea later this month.”