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Women's Football News
Sunderland approach the biggest game in their history on Sunday as they play Chelsea in the semi finals of the F.A.Women's Cup at the Stadium of Light.
Goalkeeper Helen Alderson has played a major role in the club's success this season and the England youth international is keeping things very much in perspective ahead of the match. "We've never really felt much pressure in the Cup," she told Women's Soccer Scene. "Our main focus for the season is on the league and hopefully to win it, so the Cup run has been a bonus.
"We are going to go out and enjoy the occasion and do our best. You don't realistically think a team outside the top flight can reach the semi finals but it has been brilliant and enjoyable."
Sunderland reached this stage with a surprise 4-2 victory over Bristol Academy, having trailed by two goals at one stage. "It was a tough task and we wanted to see how far we had come," says Helen. "We did well in the first half but they scored from two set pieces but at half time, everyone believed we could do it - but we needed to step things up and take our chances. Even when we missed a penalty, we still had the momentum, but it showed the togetherness of the girls and our strength as a team that we turned it around.
"When the game ended, the feeling was one of relief! Being a goalkeeper, I always say that I don't enjoy any games until the final whistle, but to get to the semi finals with a young and inexperienced side is a great achievement and I am so proud of the girls, we have done so well."
Now Sunderland must turn their attention to another tough task against Chelsea. "We've come up against some difficult teams," admits Helen. "We played Leeds City Vixens in an earlier round and it wasn't easy - teams from lower leagues want to knock you out and the boot is on the other foot now.
"Chelsea have obviously got a tremendous team, player for player they are very good. I know a few of them from the England set up and, being from the Northern Division, I don't get too many chances to play against England team mates. We are under no illusions as they are such a great side but we've got nothing to lose, anything can happen and we will give our all.
"The girls have no reason to doubt themselves, so long as they do their best. Although our side is young, a number of them have played in World Cups and even in a World Cup semi final!"
The game also presents the squad with their first chance of playing at the Stadium of Light. "It's a brilliant venue," Helen enthuses. "We played for the Centre of Excellence in a seven-a-side game at half time during a Sunderland match a few years ago and never imagined we would play an F.A.Cup semi final there! We'll go in focused on the game and not be intimidated by the surroundings - I am a Sunderland fan myself and I would like to think that the majority of the squad support them as well!
"There has been a lot of interested generated from local league sides and we are hoping for a decent crowd to get behind us on the day."
"We also have Kelly McDougall who has been a really good help to the girls since she joined, especially the young ones. Her international experience has helped bring the girls together and it is good to have her there."
Whatever happens on Sunday, Helen remains determined that the longer term is of much more significance. "I would be lovely to get to the Final but we have got to focus on Sunday and see what comes out of that," she says. "We don't want to suffer the same fate as Lincoln who reached the semi finals last year and then just missed out on promotion. We played Preston last week and were totally focused on that game, the Chelsea match was not even mentioned.
"Promotion would mean everything to us at the club. There are a lot of girls with talent in the North East and we have to get a team back up there as we all believe we can perform there."
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