Title still the target for Albion striker Ini

Ini Umotong in action for Albion against London Bees. Picture by Geoff Penn/BHAFC
Ini Umotong in action for Albion against London Bees. Picture by Geoff Penn/BHAFC

Striker Ini Umotong feels every team will have a point to prove against Albion Ladies for the remainder of their WSL 2 season.

Brighton sit third in the table but already have a place confirmed in the restructured WSL 1 for next season - wherever they finish.

They are the only team from WSL 2 to have a top tier licence for the 2018/19 campaign and Umotong believes that will see teams raise their game against the Seagulls.

She said: “Every game we play now will be tough. Every team in our league will have a point to prove against us because we are the only team in the league to be given WSL 1 status for next season.

“We can’t underestimate any team we face. It’s important we prepare well, keep focused and give everything we can.

“Everyone is looking at us as a point to prove. They feel they are better than us but it’s up to us to show that they aren’t and show them we do deserve WSL 1 status. That’s the most important thing for me.”

The Seagulls lost 4-1 at leaders Doncaster Belles last month and are seven points off top spot but have a game in hand.

Umotong, who joined the club last summer after previously playing for Portsmouth and Oxford, is confident the Seagulls can still lift the title and said: “We had a little hiccup against Donny Belles, so we need them to make a mistake but the season is still quite long.

“We’re only halfway through, so I’m sure they’ll lose points but we can only focus on ourselves and make sure that each game we get all the available points we can.

“I’m confident we can still make top spot because we’re getting better each game.

“We have improved massively since the beginning of the season and part of the reason has been Hope (Powell; manager) coming in. We have so much potential and room left to grow but, so far, I think we’ve done really well.”

With six goals from 12 matches, Umotong is Albion’s top-scorer this season but she said: “I’d like to have a few more. I am very critical of myself, so it’s okay but I definitely want to score a few more in the rest of the season.

“I set myself individual goals and a personal target but I won’t say what it is.”

While she is fully focused on ensuring Brighton finish the season strongly, Umotong is already relishing the challenge of playing in WSL 1.

Albion have played the top two in WSL 1, Chelsea and leaders Manchester City, in cup competitions this season, losing 3-0 and 2-0, and Umotong said: “We know we can hold our own against the very best, which is very promising for us.

“Some teams in WSL 1 get pumped five, six or seven-nil against the top clubs. But we’ve been able to hold our ground against the very best and had great complements from them, saying we’re one of the most organised opponents they’ve come up against, even compared to WSL 1.

“That’s promising for us and gives us that extra boost and encouragement that we’ll be ready when the time comes.

“It’s still a while away but football seasons come and go in a blink of an eye, so everything we do now is working towards WSL 1. Each game we play is almost as a preparation for WSL 1.”

Albion entertain Oxford at Culver Road, Lancing, tomorrow (7.45pm) and Umotong said: “It’s a big game but every game now is big. We’ll be wanting three points from every game we play now.

“We always seem to do well at home and always have a good crowd, so we’ll be confident going into the game but we can’t take any game for granted.

“It’s too risky to. We’ll be preparing as hard as we can and looking to get three points.”

Umotong, who has one cap for Nigeria, has just been called up to the squad again and said: “It was a feeling of shock, excitement, anxiousness. I was so excited, as I’ve been waiting for a call-up for a long time and it was really emotional.

“The new coach Thomas Dennerby emailed me, and my heart stopped a bit when I found out that it had all been confirmed.”