Durham Women are enjoying their best-ever run in the SSE Women’s FA Cup and are in the last eight with some of the best teams in the land.
However, Durham duo Annabel Johnson and Becky Salicki are under no illusion how tough Sunday’s last-eight clash with Everton will be.
The FA WSL 1 visitors boast a strong pedigree in the competition, having lifted the trophy twice and been runners-up on three occasions, the last being in 2014.
Durham, meanwhile, were only formed in the same year and the quarter-final showdown is just another chapter in one of women’s football’s most uplifting success stories.
But for the fairy tale to get even more memorable, they need to negotiate a strong Everton outfit one division higher than them in the footballing pyramid.
The match carries extra gravitas for Durham, who will be itching for revenge after being dumped out of the competition last year by Everton on penalties at the fourth-round stage.
“It’s going to be a very difficult game,” said Durham left-back Johnson, 24. “I think it will be fast-paced – they’re a fit and athletic side.
“I don’t think it will be a high-scoring match but it will be very competitive and I’m looking forward to it.
“Last year’s result makes us even more motivated , it gives us something extra to go out and play for even though there’s a lot to go out there for anyway.”
Salicki added: “They’ve got a lot of good players in their team, both individually and together as a unit – I know they play very good football.
“They only got beaten 1-0 by Arsenal, that was a very tight game and Arsenal could not break them down so I think they’ll be a tough challenge for us but hopefully one we’ll rise to.”
Johnson and Salicki were speaking on the SSE Women’s FA Cup Tour, which was in Durham on Friday and saw the players, along with the coveted trophy, visit two schools in the area.
Pupils at the schools, Easington Academy and Consett Academy, also had the chance to ask question of the players and have their picture taken with the famous silverware.
There was also a nod to the club’s roots as the roadshow stopped by the university’s Team Durham headquarters at Maiden Castle. Durham University joined forces with South Durham and Cestria Girls to form the team in 2014.
And the side which have established themselves as a feared WSL 2 opponent are unique in their recent progress, but Salicki, 25, believes there is still more in the tank.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for us so far this season,” the centre-back added. “We’ve probably dropped some points where we shouldn’t have and games haven’t gone in our favour when we’ve played well.
“But we don’t stop, we keep going and that’s the whole point of who we are – we’re a team and we’ll fight to the end, and that’s what will happen on Sunday.”
Durham Woman kick off against Everton LFC at 2pm this Sunday 18th March.
Tickets are now on sale for the SSE Women’s FA Cup Final on Saturday 5th May at Wembley Stadium connected by EE. For more information about tickets and SSE’s involvement in women’s football visit www.sponsorship.sse.com.
By Jimmy Booker, Sportsbeat