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Women's Football News
Everton have been riding the crest of a wave following their first major trophy for nine years and on Sunday they are setting their sights on reaching another Cup Final.
They will take on Leeds United in the semi finals at Southport and full back Rachel Unitt is cautiously optimistic that they can take the next step. "We're looking forward to it, but it is going to be tough," she told Women's Soccer Scene. "Leeds have been a bit of a bogey side and we always seem to struggle against them.
"The squad is in a buoyant mood after the win against Arsenal but this is the F.A.Cup - anything can happen so we will give it our best."
Rachel admits that the League Cup Final win has given the team a huge confidence boost. "Winning the first trophy is that little bit extra special," she says. "Everton are probably the second best team in the league and we know we are not far behind Arsenal. We have a strong squad which is getting better, we have been together now for two or three years and this is the strongest squad since I have been at the club."
A busy time lies ahead for Everton as they start to catch up games after international duties have greatly disrupted their season, not least the World Cup in the opening months. "After the World Cup, it is a massive come down and motivation was hard at first," admits Rachel, "but we're back on track now. We'd had a break from club football and it was mainly international, but since the World Cup we have done really well - we drew an early game with Birmingham but have only lost one match since."
Although she jokingly refers to herself as 'the weak link at left back', Rachel is part of a very strong Everton defence which was fully demonstrated in the win against Arsenal. "Johnno (Lindsay Johnson) is one of, if not the best centre halves in the country in my opinion and, although we lost Fern Whelan to injury, Emily Westwood has stepped in and is playing well alongside her. Becky Easton has been very consistent at right back, she is very tenacious and gives us a lot of experience.
"Rachel Brown is probably the best goalkeeper in the world but has been struggling with injury so Danielle Hill has stepped in and done very well - we are fortunate that we have two of the best goalkeepers in the league."
Although they trail Arsenal by several points in the league, Everton have a number of games in hand and Rachel revealed that they have not given up on the title just yet. "Arsenal need to drop a few points but we still have a chance," she says. "They have been having a bad patch but, to their credit, they are still picking up victories. We have just got to keep winning and see what happens."
However the club will first turn its attention to Sunday's semi final and a chance to erase bad memories of their Cup Final defeat against Charlton Athletic three years ago. "The Charlton game wasn't our best performance," Rachel recalls. "A lot of our players were a bit nervy and we didn't do ourselves justice on the day."
Although one of the most popular players in the country, Rachel is currently battling to win back her England place which she lost to Casey Stoney shortly before the World Cup. "Casey is a great player and can play anywhere across the back line," she says. "It is going to be tough to get back in as Casey is so consistent, but I'll keep doing my best and bide my time."
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