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Many players rarely have an opportunity to play in an F.A.Women's Cup semi final in front of a big attendance, but Bristol Rovers defender Vanessa Leat is fast becoming a 'veteran' of such matches! The left back is one of four members of the Rovers squad who will be making her third semi final appearance in four years against Arsenal on Sunday and she is fully appreciative of that fact. "It's a big honour to play in my third semi final at the age of 19 - not many people can say they've done that!" she smiles. "Hopefully we can put in a good performance and go one better this time."
So does it get better each time? "Each one has its own occasion and challenges," says Vanessa. "I always get a buzz walking out of a dressing room but even more so in a cup semi final."
Rovers played Arsenal recently and the match has given them an insight into their semi final opponents. "We think they're definitely beatable. If we can give them a good run for their money, and if we all perform to the best of our ability I think we'll have a good chance of winning the game. We are the underdogs and Arsenal are the favourites but hopefully we'll have luck on our side."
On looking at Rovers' league record this season - their first after promotion - it suggests that they have struggled at the highest level. Vanessa feels that they have performed much better than the league table says. "Lapses in concentration have sometimes let us down. We need our confidence building, and a little luck, but we've defended quite well as a team overall.
"The first season after promotion is the hardest. Everybody makes mistakes at this level when you're not used to playing the best clubs week in week out. I know I've learnt from my mistakes and hopefully we can all build from that."
The match takes place at the Memorial Stadium, where Rovers have made their previous two semi final appearances against Arsenal and Fulham. Both games attracted large attendances and Vanessa is savouring the chance of another one. "Hopefully we'll get a good atmosphere, we always get a big crowd here. We love a big crowd - it spurs you on so much when you've got over 3,000 cheering you on - it makes you go that extra yard."
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