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After producing the most unlikely of goalkeeping heroics in the fourth round of the SSE Women's FA Cup, Everton defender Danielle Turner has landed the top gong.
Defender Turner is celebrating being crowned the SSE Player of the Round for the fourth stage, after her unlikeliest of stints in goal helped the Toffees beat Durham Women on penalties.
Turner, 25, was the unlikely hero after stepping up to the plate when regular Everton goalkeeper Kirstie Levell picked up a knock towards the end of the first half. Undeterred, Turner donned the gloves and took her place between the posts, keeping a clean sheet for the second half and 30 minutes of extra time.
Durham's two missed penalties ensured Everton went through to the fifth round for a crunch match against arch rivals Liverpool on Sunday 19th March and Warrington-born Turner said she would happily volunteer again if her team needed her as a number one.
"It was crazy," Turner said. "We'd discussed it in the warm up, what we would do if Kirstie got injured.
"Apparently, it was me who my manager Andy Spence and coach Martin Ho had decided, but I volunteered myself anyway. At half time, she was struggling, so we made the decision then, but I was happy to go in.
"In training, I'm always the first one to get stuck in, and I'm fairly agile. I'm not afraid in the tackle, and I'm not afraid to throw myself around in goal either.
"We were not blessed with a lot of height on the day, I was one of the tallest, and so it probably didn't leave many options.
"I loved it - I had 75 minutes in net, and kept a clean sheet. If it was to ever happen again, I'd certainly volunteer!"
A Rebecca Salicki strike and a spectacular Beth Hepple effort had Durham in the driving seat, and they must have thought they could seize the initiative further when Levell was forced off injured at half time.
But the Toffees, with Turner barking instructions from inside her penalty area, hauled themselves back into the game through Michelle Hinnigan and Megan Finnigan, before their penalty triumph.
Turner was quick to point out the sterling defensive work of her Everton team mates, which restricted the amount she was called into action.
"The first half was very disappointing," Turner said. "We knew in the second half we had to come out and match Durham's physicality, win our battles and one on ones.
"We dominated the second half - a lot of the play was down at the other end, but I still had to make a few saves.
"One save at the end of extra time was the key - it was fairly routine for a regular keeper but I think a couple of the girls were worried it might slip through my legs, but I managed to hold on.
"The girls defended really well though. Our back four cleared a lot of crosses.
"I think Durham may have even played for penalties in the end, considering I was not a natural keeper. I still can't believe that we won a penalty shoot-out with me in net - it was a mad game from start to finish.
"At the end, Michelle [Hinnigan], who missed her penalty, said ‘Dan, you've saved me there'. All the girls were made up."
Manager Spence said Turner's attitude was the key to their decision in choosing her to fill the unenviable task of playing custodian. "She's the type of player who first and foremost is fully committed in terms of helping the team out," said Spence. "I've seen her in training, diving about when the players are having a bit if fun before the sessions.
"Mainly it was down to her character and temperament - I knew it would not faze her, she'd take it in the spirit we needed if that was to happen.
"I'm really pleased for Danielle. It shows anything is possible in the game, if you're willing to have the right mindset and the right approach."
Tickets are now on sale for the SSE Women's FA Cup Final on Saturday 13th May at Wembley Stadium connected by EE. For the second consecutive year, kids go free to the final, tickets can be purchased here: https://ticketing.thefa.com/
by Jimmy Booker, Sportsbeat
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