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Sheffield FC manager Helen Mitchell is remaining patient despite a weather enforced break which has interrupted their season.
The Northern Division leaders have seen their F.A.Women's Cup Second Round tie against Liverpool Feds postponed three times and, although they did manage to re-schedule a County Cup tie against Barnsley last week, a victory or another postponement on Sunday would mean them going ten weeks without playing a league match.
"It's been a little frustrating yes, but we always seem to have a break of some sort around this time of year due to the weather, so it's just one of those things you have to put up with," Helen told Women's Soccer Scene. "We've managed to get a few matches on artificial pitches in since Christmas (a County Cup tie, and a couple of friendlies against WSL opposition), so we've been playing some football at least, which has kept the players a littler happier."
As for the FA Cup tie, Sheffield will go into the game as favourites but Helen insists they will not be writing off their opponents, who are one of title chasers in the Northern Combination. "We might be slight favourites on paper perhaps, but they'll be absolutely no complacency from us on the day," she said. "We played Liverpool Feds a couple of seasons ago in the Northern Combination, and we had two very tough matches against them then.
"They're in a strong position to mount a challenge for their league title this season, so we won't be underestimating them at all. Anything can happen in cup matches, and we know we'll need to be at our best to give ourselves a chance of progressing.
"The league is always the priority, but it'd be great to have a run in the FA Women's Cup - apart from the additional fixture congestion that would cause! We've never really done that well in the competition before - we got to the fourth round two seasons ago which is the furthest we've managed - so it'd be nice to have a really good run one year.
"Getting the chance to play clubs you've not played before is one of the main incentives of progressing in the competition, and if we can beat Liverpool Feds, that means a game away at Charlton Athletic in the Third Round which would be new for us."
Sheffield FC won the Northern Division last season and are well placed again this time around, so is the team extra determined for a repeat success this time around? "I don't know about more determined, but the team is naturally very keen to defend last year's league title if they possibly can," Helen replies. "But this isn't something that's exclusive to this season - whether we've finished runners-up or Champions, which we have done for each of the last eight seasons, the desire to improve on the previous season's achievements has always been a characteristic of the squad, so it's nothing particular to this season."
The Yorkshire side have been in prime goalscoring form this season, averaging over four per game in the league, but they also have the best defensive record along with Nottingham Forest, having conceded only nine goals. "Isn't that always the way?!" laughs Helen. "The goalscorers will always grab the limelight, but a good defensive record is absolutely essential to giving yourself a chance to win matches. Strikers can win you games; defenders win you titles.
"We've done quite well defensively so far, but it's our own mistakes that have probably cost us half the goals we've conceded this season, so the challenge is to cut those errors out and make it harder for teams to score against us going forward."
Due to the re-organisation of the Premier League at the start of the season, the opportunity exists for Sheffield FC to claim themselves as the best team in the country in the winter season, along with the Southern Division title winners. "There's such a long way to go this season, we're not even thinking about anything like that yet," replies Helen. "I am not aware of any scheduled play-off between the FAWPL Northern and Southern Division Champions at any rate, but for whichever two teams end up top of the two divisions this would be a fantastic achievement.
"The disappointment comes in the league winners not having the opportunity to progress any more on merit, but to be classed as the best 'amateur' team in the country will be a great accolade for whichever team(s) ends the season at the top."
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