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Doncaster Rovers Belles will be playing in their first major Final for seven years when they take on Arsenal in the Premier League Cup Final at Scunthorpe on Thursday and they are hoping to break their long trophy drought in a competition they have never won.
Defender Natasha Hughes has played her part in helping the Belles to reach this Final and she told Women's Soccer Scene that they want to make the most of the occasion. "We're all really excited," she smiled. "Our team is really strong now so hopefully we will give Arsenal a good game. Everyone is really looking forward to it.
"I played against Arsenal in the F.A.Cup Final two years ago and they were awesome then - they are still awesome now but we are happy to be the underdogs. We lost to Arsenal earlier in the season and we want to put that one right - we shall certainly give them a better game than before."
The Belles have been dealt a double blow ahead of the Final as leading scorer Liz Hanson is out for the rest of the season with a hip injury and talented midfielder Precious Hamilton misses the game through suspension, but Natasha is looking on the positive side. "We've been having a bit of a reshuffle and tried our new squad out on Sunday," she says. "It gives someone else a chance to make a name for themselves and we do have match winners in the squad."
However for Doncaster even to be at the Final seems to be an achievement in itself. "This game means a lot to everyone at the club," says Natasha. "We were struggling for money before Christmas and, at one stage, we weren't sure if we would make it to the end of the season, so to get to a Cup Final and get this publicity is fantastic.
"It will be great for Vicky Exley to play in another big Final and I know that Sheila Edmunds (a founder member of the club 40 years ago) is really excited about it. It is nice for our manager John Buckley to have brought the club to a major Final as he has worked very hard and, as a former Doncaster Rovers player, it will mean a lot to him."
As for Natasha, she is relishing the opportunity to play in her second major Final. "I can't wait," she laughs, "hopefully I can play a full match this time as I only played for 15 minutes for Charlton Athletic in the F.A.Cup Final against Arsenal. Just playing is an achievement in itself but to play against Arsenal and win would be fantastic for us - in fact I think I would be speechless if we beat them! Some of their big players won't be there so it will be interesting to see what happens, we know we can draw inspiration from Everton's win last year.
"Hopefully we can also stay in fourth in the league but, if we can push hard and finish in third, it would be better. After the problems we have had, a top four finish and a Cup Final appearance would be a good season."
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