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Hartlepool eager to take biggest test
 Women's Football FA Women's Cup News - 2 Dec 2016
Hartlepool United have a great opportunity to test their credentials when they play away to Middlesbrough in the SSE Women's FA Cup First Round.
The club was promoted from the Durham County Women's League after a fantastic season which saw them unbeaten in the league and not dropping a point, retaining the league cup, whilst reaching the Fourth Round Qualifying in the SSE Women's FA Cup and County Cup semi finals.
"Setting the goals for this season was hard but we are a team that believe we can play at a higher level so promotion is the main objective," manager Andy Stuart told Women's Soccer Scene. "The Women's FA Cup is a great distraction from the league, a chance for the team to travel and bond which we saw last year, it is also a fantastic opportunity for players to dream and have the excitement of playing in this competition, to see how far we can go, playing teams from different regions and higher levels. It also provides much needed financial rewards if you can win a couple of games.
"Prior to the First Round proper draw, I looked at the teams left in and hoped for a favourable one as I felt we could progress further with a good draw. However, we have up against a team that nobody wanted to draw but now it's happened, we have been focused and working hard because it is a chance to see how we far we have come in the 15 months since the team was formed as Hartlepool United Ladies FC and against top opposition.
"We have a squad of 25 players with the average age being 21, we have a good blend of youth and experience with several 16/17 years of age players all starting regularly for the first team."
"The FA Cup always produces magic somehow," added midfielder Jussy Robinson. "Last year we had a great cup run, reaching the Fourth Round Qualifying when we weren't expected to, being underdogs in all four rounds. We set a target this year to get to the First Round proper, which we achieved. The girls and I are over the moon with how things are going at the club, been formed 15 months and we're getting stronger each week.
"For us to be up against our local rivals Middlesbrough Ladies who currently are sitting at the top of the Women's Premier League, who also are three leagues above us, is just something else. I'm over the moon with the draw, who wouldn't be? We're up against one of the best teams in the north east, it's a massive test for us and playing against a team with their ability will show us what level we are at or what we need to be at to succeed.
"We've played Middlesbrough a couple of times so we know some of their players but we've both added new additions since then. We're going into this game with nothing to lose, in fact we are expected to get beat but we're not going into this game beaten. We are confident we will step up the mark this Sunday and produce a performance which will hopefully rattle Middlesbrough and hopefully produce an upset which we have done before!"
Winger Jess Dawson said: "Going into Sunday, we know is a massive opportunity for us girls. We are really excited about this game, we know it's not going to be easy as Middlesbrough are a really good side, but we're going to go into Sunday with the best preparation and attitude like we do every game and give this FA Cup match the best we possibly can.
"There are a few nerves in the team but I take them as good nerves - if anything I think it's normal to be nervous. I feel Middlesbrough aren't going to take this match lightly as they want to win, we know they have a strong squad with strength and power, but so do we. We are a good side with lots of potential and we're all hard workers. We won't go down without a fight, Sunday is a massive opportunity and we want to take it. Sunday can't come quick enough!"
"Sunday's FA Cup game against Middlesbrough Ladies is going to be one of our biggest tests that we have faced so far," says striker and team captain, Caitlin Bates. "It will be a great opportunity for us as a team to play against Middlesbrough who are sitting top of the league which is three levels higher than ours.
"We have taken this FA Cup one step further this year, reaching the first round proper and being classed as the underdogs against a strong Middlesbrough squad who are set to be favourites to win. I am really excited for this week's game knowing that anything can happen within the FA Cup and to know that we are eight games away from Wembley is just unbelievable!
"We are all training very hard and staying focused as we get closer to Sunday's big game. Myself and the girls all know how hard this game will be but we will put up a huge fight to try and progress into the Second Round and like everyone says, anything can happen with the magic of the FA Cup. The vibes throughout the team are staying positive and the potential and ability amongst our squad is huge! We just keep getting better and better. I am feeling confident about Sunday's game and I can't wait to get on that pitch and prove how good a squad Hartlepool Ladies are!"

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