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Melanie Reay is confident that Newcastle United will not be overawed going into their F.A.Women's Cup quarter final tie against Everton this Sunday.
The Magpies reached this stage with a shock victory over Watford in the Fifth Round and Melanie told Women's Soccer Scene that they have an opportunity to repeat that feat against the Toffees. "It's a massive game and everyone is looking forward to it," she says.
"Everyone at the club is buzzing and this is why you play football, to test yourself against the second best team in the country who have a lot of internationals."
Newcastle are currently at the wrong end of the Northern Division but Melanie is sure that they can move themselves back up the table. "We played Preston North End two weeks ago and won 3-0 and that was our last match - we don't seem to have regular league fixtures," she admits. "The cup run has meant that we've been without league games and the teams below us have been winning.
"We've still got plenty of games in hand and a good chance to get clear."
This season has also seen a change of management at Newcastle, with Melanie stepping up to take over the role of assistant manager to Neil Baistow in January, replacing Rob Atkin who is now the club's Head Coach. "It was a bit of a shock when Rob decided to change his role," she says. "But it has been good so far and I have really enjoyed it. So far we have only lost once and, with the cup run as a boost, everyone is in high spirits.
"Coaching is my full time job at Gateshead College and I also coach at the Newcastle Centre of Excellence but this is the first time I have done this role. The players have been excellent and responded well."
That good start included the penalty shootout victory over National Division high fliers Watford. "We knew it wouldn't be easy (against Watford) but we worked on a game plan," says Melanie. "We were 3-1 down at one stage but the girls stuck together and got their reward.
"It was nail biting and the penalties were the most nerve racking thing I have been involved in as it finished 2-1, most of the penalties were missed and our goalkeeper Helen Kane pulled off two good saves. It was a massive team effort and there was a great atmosphere for the long journey back home to Newcastle.
"We have done it once, so who says we can't do it again? We will certainly have a go - we know they have got good players and we are obviously the underdogs, but hopefully the girls will rise to the occasion. Preparations have gone well and we have a full squad to pick from - we've got a chance, it may be a small one but if Everton are to win, they will have to earn it.
"Our squad has a mixture of youth and some experience, players such as myself and Julie Twaddle have played against Everton several times before and know what to expect, whereas there are young players who have come through and have never faced a top flight team before this season."
If Newcastle can win, they would become the first team from the North East to reach the semi finals and interest in the area has been high. "Last week our reserves played in a cup semi final and over 100 turned up," says Melanie, "so hopefully we will get a big attendance for the Everton match.
"There is a lot of interest and the local media have given us a lot of coverage. Kevin Keegan recently came to training at the Centre of Excellence to present our Team of the Round award and stayed for over an hour, and that was brilliant.
"It would be great if we could get through to the semi finals and raise the club's profile."
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