SUNDERLAND Women manager Mick Mulhern says drawing Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup was his worst nightmare – but then pledged to have a real go at the mighty Gunners.
The Lady Black Cats beat Super League side Lincoln Ladies 1-0 at Eppleton CW on Sunday, and were then handed a home draw against the cup favourites a week on Sunday.
Arsenal beat holders Everton 2-0 on Sunday and the draw creates a rematch of the 2009 FA Cup final when the Gunners beat Sunderland 2-1 in front of over 23,000 fans at Pride Park.
Four of the eight Super League teams crashed out of the cup on Sunday, making Arsenal even stronger favourites to lift the trophy this year.
“When I saw the other results after we had beaten Lincoln, I had just one wish,” said Mulhern. “Anyone but Arsenal!
“I believe that if we could avoid them in the draw, there was no reason why could not get to the cup final again.
“But we have got Arsenal, and we have to get on with it. And I am sure we will give it a real go to try to get the better of the best team in the country.”
Sunderland caused one of the shock results in the last decade of women’s football when they beat Arsenal in the league last season. But since then, Sunderland failed to win a place in the new Super League and lost their shining star, midfielder Jordan Nobbs, to the Gunners.
Nobbs scored in the shock win against Arsenal last season, with midfield partner Kelly McDougall getting the winner.
“We know all about Jordan’s game, obviously,” said Mulhern. “She was a brilliant player, but at Arsenal she is only a junior part of their team. There will be 11 threats in their team, with the biggest in Kim Little, who is the best player in the country.
“They also have Steph Houghton, who used to play for us, so there’ll be some familiar faces when we play them!
“Beating Arsenal last season was the biggest win of my career as a manager. Beating Chelsea in the semi-final of the FA Cup at the Stadium of Light was great, but beating Arsenal was something very, very special.”
It is the third year in a row that Sunderland will have met Arsenal in the FA Cup – last season the Lady Black Cats were knocked out 4-1 at Arsenal, but only in extra-time after holding them to 1-1 over 90 minutes.
“Of course it is going to be a terrifically hard game, but I’ll always back my team to give it everything they’ve got.”
FA Women’s Cup quarter-final draw: Sunderland v Arsenal, Millwall Lionesses v Bristol Academy, Liverpool v Doncaster Rovers Belles, Barnet v West Ham United.