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After two F.A.Cup Final defeats in each of the past two season, Charlton Athletic are doubly determined to go one better at the third attempt against Everton on Monday and midfielder Jess Smith - who was involved in both defeats - told Women's Soccer Scene of her team's desire to lift the trophy. "I'm still young but it's the most important game of my career to date," admits Jess. "Everyone strives to make a cup final, every girl would want to play in this game as it is the biggest in the women's calendar and this is my third. We've got the experience of playing in finals now, we know all about the pressure and this year we want to prove what we are about."
Charlton have been the most consistent team in the country when it comes to cup competitions in recent times, having now reached five out of six major finals since May 2003. Only one of the previous four has so far resulted in a victory - against Fulham in last season's Premier League Cup Final - and the Addicks are bidding to put the record straight. "The memory of the previous two F.A.Cup Final defeats will definitely spur us on," says Jess. "As the saying goes, third time lucky! We are going to go for it and give it our all."
The Addicks will go into the match on the back of their 1-0 defeat by Arsenal on Sunday, which saw the Gunners clinch the league title. Jess is more than happy with the team's performance, saying: "We played well against Arsenal and were always in the game, we were just unlucky that Kelly Smith scored that great goal." Jess' midfield partner, England star Katie Chapman, missed the game after sustaining a broken hand whilst playing for England against Scotland and she faces a race against time to be fit for the Final. "We're hoping Katie will be fit as she is such a strong player, but we've got a strong enough squad to overcome that as we proved against Arsenal."
Not that Jess is underestimating Everton as is particularly looking forward to coming up against her former Charlton team mate Fara Williams in midfield. "Our previous games against Everton this season have been good matches, and people have said afterwards that they were great adverts for women's football,"she says. "It should be a great game to watch as both teams like to get the ball down and play football. Fara is a great player and I can't wait to play against her!
"Hopefully we will get a good crowd for the match as that would be lovely to see, and they can produce a good atmosphere."
Charlton have already finished as runners-up in two domestic competitions this season and will start the match as favourites. Jess is satisfied with the way things have gone but feels that they can go a little further next season. "The women's game has progressed so much in the last few years and all youngsters coming through are great players, so we are doing well to be among the leading clubs in the country. We have competed at all stages in all three competitions and have been consistent all season, but next year our aim is to win the league title. It has not been an unsuccessful season, but so far it has not been quite as successful as we hoped."
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