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Cardiff City will be attempting to reach the F.A.Women's Cup semi finals for the first time this Sunday and Loren Dykes insists that they can take their good Cup form into the match.
The Welsh international striker scored the winning goal in their Fifth Round victory over Doncaster Rovers Belles and she is confident that they can claim another Yorkshire scalp in the last eight. "The whole team is very optimistic about our chances," Loren told Women's Soccer Scene. "We are the underdogs and that can be seen as a good thing as the pressure is on Leeds to win so, if we can stop them scoring, that will frustrate them and only work to our advantage.
"Hopefully, it won't be all defensive and we can get forward and be lethal in front of goal like we were against Doncaster."
Cardiff are currently involved in a fight against relegation from the National Division but Loren feels that the cup tie is a welcome distraction. "Battling against relegation is very tough on a team," she admits. "We are competing with teams and playing well but can't seem to turn those good performances into points, which we so desperately need to do. Still, being in the FA Cup gives us something positive to aim for and for this game, we can forget about the league and our worries and we seem to play better as a team."
Loren is convinced that a similar performance to that against Doncaster can earn them another reward against Leeds. "Donny put a lot of pressure on us in the first half and stopped us from getting forward but we stood strong in defence and went in at half time with only a one goal deficit. We know that 1-0 means nothing in football and, if we got the next goal, we would be the next team on top so went out with all guns blazing, ready to make a game of it. Also, our fitness levels and mental toughness held up throughout extra time which is something that can be taken into the Leeds game and for the rest of the season.
"I think that we have every chance in beating Leeds, as long as we are resilient in defence and we can be confident and take our chances in attack. Some teams don't like playing us for our 'never say die' attitude - no matter what the score, we can keep going until the final whistle."
The match will be the first meeting between the clubs this season, as they have not yet played each other in the league. "Every extra game we play is going to be helpful," says Loren. We will go into the game on Sunday with a positive frame of mind and concentrate on our own game. We played Leeds last season and each time we met them, we improved our performance and only narrowly lost to them in the FA Cup. The more we play them, the more we will improve and believe that we have a chance of winning."
This season's Cup competition has been notable for a number of shocks and surprise wins for teams such as Newcastle and Leicester, as well as Cardiff's victory over Doncaster. Lincoln have already knocked out Blackburn in the quarter finals and Loren firmly believes that her side can draw inspiration from these results: "The FA Cup has always been renowned for the lower ranked teams beating the better sides, which goes to show that when both teams are playing their best football, there isn't much difference between them and anything can happen. We know that they are a very good team and it is going to be a difficult match but we believe that, if we play to the best of our ability, we could get something out of this game."
No Welsh club has yet reached the last four of the Cup and Loren insists that victory over Leeds would be good for the area as a whole. "Like for any club, it would mean everything," she says. "All the hard work that the players, managers and coaches put in would feel like it has paid off and it brings everyone closer together. We can't get too far ahead of ourselves though and think about the end result too much, because we have a really tough match to get through first.
"We have a lot of pride at Cardiff and it would show other clubs that we are not easily beaten and that we are going to keep fighting until our last match of the season."
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