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Leeds United are chasing their third Cup Final appearance in successive seasons and they will be looking to spoil Everton's party when they face them in the semi finals this Sunday.
Leeds captain Jess Wright is likely to be a key performer in the game and she told Women's Soccer Scene that the squad is in good spirits as they approach the match at Southport. "The girls are apprehensive but looking forward to it, and it should be a good game," she said. "Everton are on a high at the moment but they will know it's just another game. We know we are capable of beating them on our day and will focus on our game."
This season, Leeds have had a new look with Rick Passmoor taking over as manager and the arrival of several new signings. "The first part of the season was difficult as the new players and management team took time to gel," admits Jess. "But since the New Year, we have had a good run of form and we're starting to move forward. We just need to work on our consistency and we are a bit young and naive on occasions."
Leeds have come through a tough Cup run so far, including penalty shootout victories over Bristol Academy and Chelsea. "People might think the luck is with us but we know we've got to beat Everton - if it's our year, it's our year," says Jess.
Two years ago, Leeds reached the Cup Final for the first time but it proved to be a nightmare as they were hammered 5-0 by a rampant Arsenal side. Jess was not playing for Leeds at the time but memories still haunt the players that were. "They knew they underperformed and didn't turn up on the day - the occasion got to them really," she says. "However last year we played Arsenal again in the League Cup Final and were beaten in the dying minutes. Although we lost, we gave them a good game and had our chances, so they felt they put the record straight."
The arrival of Rick Passmoor as manager has been a positive move by the club, according to his captain. "Rick coming in has brought fresh blood, with new ideas and training methods. Julie Chipchase was great to work with but Rick has fire in his belly, he is enthusiastic and shaken things up a bit.
"It has been a disturbed and disrupted season but everyone is finding their feet now. We have had a massive injury problem and Rick has not had a full squad to pick from all season. The new players are settling in well, Carly Telford, Katie Holtham, Steph Houghton and Jade Moore have all boosted the squad and we are getting there - but we know it takes time. Hopefully in a couple of seasons, we'll be challenging with Everton and Arsenal."
If Leeds were able to make the breakthrough and land their first trophy, Jess feels it would be an enormous boost for the area as a whole. "We've got a lot of support and it would be massive," she says. "We've been nearly there with two Finals and it would put us on the map. A number of players have been with the club for a few years now and people such as Mel Vauvelle and Sue Walton have worked incredibly hard off the pitch so it would be a just reward for all they have done."
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