Sheffield United Women want to avoid FA Cup banana skin against Middlesbrough

Sheffield United Women are looking forward to testing themselves against higher opposition in the FA Cup – if they avoid a banana skin this weekend.

The Blades begin their cup journey with a tricky trip to Middlesbrough, who play one division below them in the third tier of women’s football, on Sunday.

Boro have already won twice to reach the fourth round of the competition and have nothing else to play for after their league season was curtailed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It will be a tough test, they are on a roll so they will be eager to keep that going,” said 25-year-old midfielder Maddy Cusack, who was part of the Sheffield United team eliminated from the FA Cup at this stage last season.

Maddy Cusack in action for Sheffield United Women.

"As always playing against a club in a higher division, there’s a point to prove.

"I have played against teams at that level before, the difference is just speed and quickness. That’s the difference between all the leagues to be honest, even the league above us.”

The Blades have the incentive of a fifth-round tie against either Reading or Tottenham, both of the WSL, should they progress.

Derby-based Cusack, who combines football with work as a marketing executive at the Sheffield United Community Foundation, added: “For us we have got a few games left, it’s definitely one of our aims to win every game and this can be a little bit of a springboard to carry on our momentum.

"We are all really, really eager to get the win and move to the next round.”

United’s Women previously did battle with higher opposition in October, when they were beaten 1-0 by last season’s promotion rivals Aston Villa in the Continental Cup.

Cusack, a former Villa player, said: "The tests are great because it really shows you where you are at. Against Aston Villa we were unlucky not to get anything out of the game. Us and Villa were really, really close in terms of going up, it was really a two-horse race.

"We have got a great set of players here and a lot of players who are capable of playing at the top, top level.

"You want to go as far as you can in any competition. You do get that special feeling playing in the FA Cup.”