|Date: Wednesday, 30 September Kick-off: 19: 15 BST Coverage: Watch live on BBC four, BBC iPlayer and online|
Birmingham City manager Carla Ward says the “ridiculous” three-day gap between her side’s Women’s FA Cup quarter-final win over Brighton and Wednesday’s semi-final against Everton “is an injustice to the competition”.
Ward’s side won 4-2 on penalties against the Seagulls, after their tie ended 2-2 following extra time.
Everton were 2-1 winners over league champions Chelsea, also on Sunday.
Manchester City will host Arsenal in the second semi-final on Thursday.
“Honestly, I cannot get my head around how anyone thinks it would be the right decision to play a quarter-final of the FA Cup, probably the most prestigious competition in football, and then play three days later in the semi-finals,” said Ward.
“It’s an injustice to the competition, because actually these players have gone out and given 120 minutes and we’ve had to pull them in yesterday on their day off to get in the pool and try and give us every chance.”
The 2019-20 Women’s FA Cup was suspended prior to the original quarter-final date of 15 March amid the coronavirus outbreak and the Football Association later decided to complete the competition after the start of the new Super League campaign.
The winners of this week’s ties – which are both live on BBC television – will meet in the final at Wembley on Sunday, 1 November.
Reaching Wembley would be ‘unbelievable’- Ward
Former Sheffield United Women boss Ward said reaching the final would be a “dream come true”, having only been appointed by Birmingham on 13 August.
The 36-year-old was in charge of the Blades side that Birmingham beat 3-0 in the fourth round in January, before the West Midlands club parted company with Marta Tejedor in March.
“Honestly, it would be unbelievable [to get through],” Ward continued. “When I spoke to the girls, I nearly got emotional even thinking about it, because these girls have had a tough ride, particularly over the summer.
“Make no bones about it, they didn’t even know if they’d have a football club to play with this season so, for them, it would be a dream come true because they deserve it, they’ve stuck by the club.
“I don’t think there are many people who think we can win the game, so we’re going to enjoy it, the pressure’s off, and that’s what I’m going to be saying to the girls: Go and enjoy yourselves and give it all you’ve got.”
Ward arrived last month with a thin squad and added seven new signings ahead of the new season.
“It was only a week before I joined the club that I was saying ‘whoever takes that job has got a job on their hands’ but I like that sort of thing,” she added.
“I’ve taken the job based on the fact that we’ve got a hardworking, honest group of individuals that want to get better and that will always give you half a chance over a team that wants to pump loads of money in.
“We still need more bodies but the group we have got, we’re happy with, to get us through until January, but yes it was a stressful time, I’m not going to lie.”
‘We want to see a ‘big four or big five’ – Kirk
Everton boss Willie Kirk said before their win over Chelsea that his side were targeting silverware and believes it could be a “huge springboard” for his team.
Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal have locked everyone else out of the top three in WSL since 2015, but the Scot insists there are other good sides too.
“We’re not shouting that we’re going to replace the top three, but we definitely want people to talk about a top four or a top five, and there’ll be a number of other clubs as well who’ll be staking a claim for that, I’m sure,” Kirk said.
“So I think it [Sunday’s win] will go a long way towards that, to people being a little bit more concerned about us now, and hopefully we can live up to that new expectation.
“Birmingham have got a number of threats that we need to be aware of and hopefully we’ve done our homework as well as we could have, and can try and capitalise on the things that we’ve seen.”
Both sides came through Sunday’s game without any major injury concerns.
However, Toffees loanee Georgia Brougham – who struck Birmingham’s winning penalty at Brighton – will be ineligible to play against her parent club.