SUNDERLAND Women will be without powerful midfielder Rachel Furness for their big cup double in the next fortnight.
The Northern Ireland international injured a knee in Sunday’s 4-0 FA Cup fifth round win against Manchester City at Eppleton CW.
The 24-year-old had to be helped off the field in tears of agony after catching her studs in the turf and twisting badly.
She will definitely miss Sunday’s League Cup semi-final against Leeds United at Eppleton and the following Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Liverpool at the Academy of Light.
And manager Mick Mulhern is hoping the injury does not bring Furness’s season to a premature end.
“Rachel’s injury is a real blow,” said Mulhern.
“The fear is that it is serious ligament damage, but we will only know for sure when the swelling goes down and she can be assessed properly.
“She is definitely out for the rest of the month. I’m only hoping that it’s weeks out for Rachel and not months.
“She has been our most consistent centre-midfield player this season. She has played every game and wins everything in the air.
“We’ve had so many injuries of late and the last thing we wanted was another. She’ll be a big miss.”
There was some good news on Sunday on the injury front, though, with experienced midfielder Kelly McDougall returning to action after a few weeks out with illness. She made an appearance as a second half substitute.
“Kelly will train tonight and on Thursday, and we’ll make a decision on Sunday before the Leeds game. Knowing Kelly, she’ll be desperate to play in such a big game, but we’ll have to be sure she’s right – and she probably will not be ready to 90 minutes.
“She’s a big player for us, so it’s great to have her back in contention.”
Mulhern was happy with a home draw in yesterday’s FA Cup quarter-final draw, but knows how tough a challenge lies ahead.
“Liverpool are probably second favourites for the cup, behind Arsenal,” he said. “There’s a lot of finance behind them now and they have signed a lot of the best players from Everton, including some England players. I think they’ll be serious challengers in the Super League this season. But we’ll start to think about them next week – this week it’s all about the League Cup semi.
“Winning the cup last season was fantastic, and we want to get through to the final again.”
FA Women’s Cup quarter-final draw: Nottingham Forest or Arsenal v Birmingham City, Bristol Academy v Oxford United or Everton, Sunderland v Liverpool, Lincoln Ladies v Leeds United.