Manager Andy Spence and his Everton charges are expecting a battle when they take on Durham on Sunday in the quarter-finals of the SSE Women’s FA Cup.
Spence’s Blues are enjoying a spirited campaign on their return to the FA WSL 1 while Durham are fighting for promotion from WSL 2.
But while there is a division between the two sides on paper, Spence knows that they have no right to expect an easy ride when they line up at New Ferens Park.
However, he has full confidence in his players to apply themselves against a side lower then themselves in the footballing pyramid.
“Durham are a good side, first and foremost, they’re a strong WSL 2 team,” said the coach.
“We’ve seen them a couple of times, they’re a decent side and have some talented individuals and year on year, they are improving and they’ve improved again.
“We have to be on the top of our game and do what we do well and the results will follow.
“The expectation will be on us to win, but we carry that expectation anyway so I don’t think it’s anything that’s additional worry because we expect to win games.
“If we’d have been against Chelsea I’d have still expected us to win.”
Everton boast a strong pedigree in the competition having lifted the title twice, once in 1989 and more recently in 2010 when they defeated Arsenal after extra time.
Skipper Danielle Turner won player of the round when Durham and Everton met in the fourth round last year – she donned the goalkeeping gloves and kept a clean sheet for the rest of the game after regular keeper Kirstie Levell was taken off injured. Everton went on to win on penalties.
And while she has led her team to a last-eight place this time around from her regular outfield position, Turner is not looking further than Sunday’s showdown before dreaming of a similar scene to that seen eight years ago.
“We’re expecting a very tough and competitive game,” said the 26-year-old. “Durham have always posed us problems in the past – they’ve got some really good players.
“Last year it went to penalties against them and we’re anticipating a really difficult, physical game.
“But we’re feeling confident, we’ve had a really good week of training this week and we’re ready.”
Spence is not getting ahead of himself but admitted there is extra gravitas on the fixture as it brings them one step closer to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – a Wembley appearance for the final on May 5.
As assistant manager when Everton last contested the occasion in 2014, he wants his players to carve out memories for themselves as they look to go deep into the cup.
“I’ve bored them with stories of the past but it’s important because I want this group of girls to experience all the magical moments of being involved in finals and semi-finals,” said Spence.
“We spoke on the pitch the other day with some of the older girls who have been involved with those games, they said maybe only three or four times in a career for the lucky ones, sometimes never at all.
“We’ve got to seize the opportunities that come and with the added bonus of a Wembley date a possibility, that’s really exciting.”
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