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Larkhall Athletic captain Sophie Hamer is confident that her team can make a good impression when they take on Southampton Saints in the First Round of the FA Women's Cup.
The Bath-based side came through a tough local derby tie in the last round when beating Keynsham Town Development 2-1, thanks to two Katie Ransome goals, and Sophie is happy for her side to be ranked as underdogs against their South West Combination opponents.
"Most importantly we are keen to get back playing matches again, having missed a few weeks due to the bad weather!" she told Women's Soccer Scene. "Going into the game as underdogs is good for us, as there is no pressure on us to win, because we are not expected to do so.
"We can go into the game with a view to enjoying it and giving our best, which will hopefully lead to a victory and passage through to the next round."
Southampton Saints are a club with a good history and record in the competition, having been beaten finalists ten years ago and semi finalists on other occasions. After a few years of struggle, the Saints are upwardly mobile again having won the Southern Region League title last season and Sophie feels that playing well known opposition can inspire her team. "It's a good incentive to play against a team in a higher league than us and one we will thrive on," she insists. "It's always nice if you can beat a team who play at a higher level than you!
"I wouldn't like to single out a certain player or position on the pitch that will be key to us winning the game. We are very much a team as opposed to a group of individuals so, if we all compete and do our jobs, we will succeed through a team performance."
The Larks have started their own campaign well, having led the Premier Division of the South West League for much of the season and are heavily involved in a title battle. Sophie is convinced that a possible Cup success can only be beneficial for their league form. "It's always nice to win games, and getting the team into the habit of winning is always a good place to be," she replies, "so of course a good cup run will help us perform well in the league.
"We are fighting to stay in contention for the league, so this is very important to us, but a good cup run is also a bonus. We will focus on both, as long as we take one game at a time there shouldn't be a problem competing for both.
"I think that the experience of the team, and us as a group of players playing well as a team, is more important than any individual's one contribution. At this stage of the cup, I don't feel that experience of having played in this stage before is important [Larkhall's Kelly Cripps has played in three FA Women's Cup semi finals] - as I said earlier, we will just take each game as it comes and work at it together."
Sophie is now one of Larkhall's longer serving players and a win would mean that the midfielder would play in the Second Round stage for the first time, something she is very hopeful of achieving. "For me personally it would be great to get through to the next round," she admits. "As captain, it is a great experience for me to be playing with a team of players fulfilling their potential and enjoying every minute of the success we achieve together."
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