Ladies Start SSE Women's FA Cup Campaign This Sunday
Sheffield FC Ladies make their first appearance in this season's SSE Women's FA Cup this Sunday with an away tie against FA WSL 2 opponents, Durham Wildcats.
The Fourth Round Proper sees the entrance of all 20 FA Women's Super League sides for the very first time, and with just 16 teams going through to the Fifth Round, the stakes are high.
The draw which took place almost a month ago has paired up the two sides for the second time in the competition - the teams previously meeting each other at the same stage in 2014, when Durham ran out 3-1 winners at New Ferens Park.
It'll be the second time Sheffield travel to Durham in February as the two clubs are scheduled to meet in WSL 2 on 22 February, just two and half weeks after their SSE Women's FA Cup tie.
Prior to this season, matches against the Wildcats have been attritional affairs, with neither side giving an inch of ground and usually just the odd goal between the teams.
However, 2017/18 has seen goals galore in the two meetings so far - Durham inflicting Sheffield's heaviest league defeat ever (4-0) in the WSL at the Home of Football at the end of October, with Sheffield exacting some sort of revenge just three days later in the Continental Tyres Cup in which they ran out 5-1 winners on the night.
Sheffield will be particularly wary of Durham's engine room - the experienced Beth Hepple and Rachel Lee in central midfield - but also the pace and work rate of Nicki Gears, and the intelligent movement and goal scoring prowess of forward Zoe Ness. Yet Durham are a team in the very sense of the word - where every player plays their part, and together makes the whole work effectively. And Sheffield know just how hard they can be to break down when on song.
Uncharacteristically, the usually super-consistent Durham have had a more mixed bag of results recently, even though performances have generally been good - especially against WSL1 opposition in the Continental Tyres Cup, where the Wildcats drew with both Sunderland and Liverpool.
The hosts come off the back of a disappointing 3-2 league defeat to second placed Millwall Lionesses just last week-end, and with just one win in their last six outings, they will certainly be focused on victory this week-end.
Sheffield's results have been equally mixed. Last Sunday's dramatic 4-3 league win against Tottenham Hotspur was Club's first victory since beating Durham in the Continental Tyres Cup in November, the two wins sandwiching two draws and three single goal defeats to three of the current top four in the league: Doncaster Rovers Belles, Millwall Lionesses, and Brighton & Hove Albion.
Sheffield goalkeeper, Danielle Gibbons, gave her thoughts ahead of the match:
"The FA Cup is one of the world's most prestigious trophies, in either women's or men’s football, so it’s always exciting to be a part of. We've no pressure because nothing is really expected of us long-term in the competition, so we can go into the cup with an element of freedom and express ourselves."
After the fight and togetherness we showed to hold out for three points on Sunday, the mood in the camp is really positive. We’re eager to get back on the pitch, to build again on the performance, and keep growing as a team."
"The last two games against Durham have been polar opposites, so it’s destined to be an exciting game. The last result finished 5-1 to us so psychologically perhaps we've the upper hand. That combined with the way we won at the week-end fills us with a lot of confidence, and I have every faith we can do the same on Sunday."
After defeat to Millwall last Sunday, Durham are in determined mood to bounce back, as defender Becky Salicki highlighted ahead of the Cup tie:
"Millwall gave us a fight on the day, and Sheffield will as well. They're a good football team, but we're just as good and we should be doing better. We'll make that right this week."
“We’ve played them twice already, so we’ll know a little bit of what they’re about. It should be a good game and hopefully we can bounce back. It would be great to see as many people as possible down there supporting us and helping us back on the right track again."
The SSE Women's FA Cup tie kicks off at 1pm on Sunday 4 February at New Ferens Park, Durham, DH1 1GG. You can purchase tickets in advance here, or on the turnstile on the day, priced at just £5 and £2.