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Women's Football News
West Ham United striker Gemma Shepherd feels her team are capable of causing an upset when they take on Bristol Academy in the Fourth Round of the F.A.Women's Cup.
The Hammers have been drawn away to the top flight side and Gemma told Women's Soccer Scene: "Collectively, we are quite pleased with the draw.
"We often play better against top flight teams who play football against us as we tend to adapt well. We have experience of Bristol Academy from summer tournaments and know they have good players but them being in the lower half of the table may help us."
West Ham can draw on their experience of playing Millwall Lionesses in the League Cup earlier in the season. "We took them all the way to penalties and were unlucky to lose," Gemma recalled. "When we are at our best, we are a good passing side and that is the way we like to play."
In the league, West Ham have only been beaten once so far this season but seven draws in fourteen games means they currently lie third. "We're notoriously slow starters," admits Gemma, "we drew our first four games but we've had a whole new set of players and it takes time to get to know each other. Last season was a transitional and formative one for us but we wanted to push for it this time.
"In a lot of the games we've drawn, we have either been ahead or had a lot of possession but we're getting a bit of momentum now. The pinnacle of our season has been beating leaders Barnet, we dominated that game and actually beat them quite comfortably. We also beat Reading but lost to Fulham, so things so far have been frustrating but improving.
"We have a young side and sometimes we switch off, so that has been costly at times. Also we don't have a clinical finisher up front - last season we had Sam Pittuck who scored 25 goals and she was a big loss for us. I have been playing up front having been converted from midfield, but the arrival of Becky Merritt from Crystal Palace has helped and we are forming an understanding.
"Rosie Sullivan has been outstanding for us at centre half and Toni-Anne Wayne is playing well in goal, she is a quality goalkeeper and a big boost for our side."
Although immediate sights are set on the Cup, Gemma admits that the long term aim is for success in the Southern Division. "Winning the league is still a possibility and we'll need to win all of our remaining games, but it's still a tall order," she says. "But we can definitely finish second and show teams that we can be a force for the future. There are a few teams in the division who are on a par with us but I don't think there is anyone better. We have got to try and turn these draws into victories and be a bit more ruthless.
"Barnet have got ahead at the moment but things have tightened up a bit now and the title race should go down to the wire. Portsmouth are always there or thereabouts and you can never count them out so it should be between those two, ourselves and Reading.
"However a Cup run would be fantastic for our club, especially for the younger players as it will give them a taste of what can be achieved. It would also put us on the map and raise our profile, so that is an incentive for us to do well when we play our tie."
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