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Lewis keen to fly out of the traps after Blues given a tough opener against Glens

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Phil Lewis

Phil Lewis

Phil Lewis

Linfield Ladies manager Phil Lewis knows that his team will have to hit the ground running if they are to make a successful defence of their Danske Bank Womens' Premiership title after being handed probably the toughest possible start to the season.

The Windsor Park girls face a massive Big Two derby against Glentoran Women in their opening game of the season on Wednesday, April 22 and if that wasn't enough, a week later they travel to take on Sion Swifts Ladies, who they pipped to the title on goal difference last season.

And, in a strange quirk, the fixture list, which the Northern Ireland Football League released yesterday, sees the opening matches reversed on the last night of the season at the end of September, and if the title race goes to the wire like it did last campaign, then it is already set up to be an exciting finale.

"We are going to be tested right from the start," said Lewis.

"With the fixtures coming out the way they have, with Glentoran first and then Sion Swifts, we are going to have to hit the ground running straight away."

Sion Swifts, who were edged into second place by just four goals last season, will kick off their challenge against Cliftonville Ladies at Solitude before they host the Blues in week two, with Derry City Ladies facing Crusaders Strikers in the other opening game.

With the league reduced to six teams after Comber Rec Ladies were relegated and promotion wasn't opened up to the NIWFA Championship winners, there is likely to be a higher level of intensity in this season's title race.

"Over the course of the season, with 20 games to play, playing each team four times, we know that it will be tough," said Lewis.

"We will have to beat everyone if we want to win the league again."

Linfield have added two new faces to their squad in Ebony Leckey from Sion Swifts and Vicky Carleton from Glentoran Women.

Lewis will also have defender Kelsie Burrows back in his line-up after she returned home from a spell at Blackburn Rovers.

DANSKE BANK WOMEN'S PREMIERSHIP OPENING FIXTURES (Wednesday, April 22): Derry City Ladies v Crusaders Strikers, Linfield Ladies v Glentoran Women, Cliftonville Ladies v Sion Swifts Ladies.

Belfast Telegraph


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