Newcastle United women return to St James' Park with 'Geordie push' needed to reach cup final

Simon O'Rourke previews the Newcastle United Women's team semi-final at St James' Park

Newcastle United women's team will return to St James' Park for the fifth time as they seek to reach the National League Cup final.

Portsmouth are the visitors with around 25,000 people expected to come through the turnstiles on Sunday afternoon (25 February).

"We're all really excited about playing at St. James's Park again," Newcastle manager Becky Langley told ITV Tyne Tees. "To be playing in a semi-final we really need that Geordie push with the fans in the crowd helping the team get to the final.

"The scale of support is fantastic and it will really help push the girls on having that twelfth woman in the crowd.

"We've been astounded by the support in the past, just seeing those stands full, seeing the Gallowgate end fill up. It will be a fantastic occasion."

Newcastle manager Becky Langley has urged fans to get behind the team at St James' Park. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The Lady Mags have previously accrued an aggregate attendance of 74,000 for their games at St James' Park, claiming wins over Alnwick Town, Barnsley and Bradford.

The team also played West Bromwich Albion at the ground during the Sela Cup in August following two men's games.

Langley admits it will be hard to top the team's first game at St James' Park against Alnwick but does not believe the thrill of playing in one of the city's most famous landmarks will ever wane.

"It would be hard to ever compare to the first time we ever played there," Langely admitted. "It was just unimaginable the size of the crowd that came out that first time.

"But the novelty will never wear off. It is a fantastic stadium with such astounding support and it will be fantastic again."

Becky Langley alongside coaches David Martinez and Andy Cook. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The Magpies became the first team in the third tier to go full-time this year and have reaped the rewards on and off the pitch, sitting nine points clear of at the top of the Northern half of the WPL Premier Division and in a very strong position to claim promotion to the Championship.

Goalkeeper Grace Donnelly knows more than most about how far the club have come in recent years having joined in 2017 when it was still pay to play.

"We were supported by the foundation which treated us very well and looked after us but it was very different situation," she explained. "I think we had about 20 fans max and half of them were just people's mams and dads on the sidelines.

"So to go from having my mam sat on a camping chair on the side of a grass pitch to my Mam sat in the posh seats in James's Park and playing on that pitch is phenomenal growth.

"It is unbelievable and something that if you told me in 2017, I would never have believed you."

Grace Donnelly is into her seventh year as a Newcastle United player and has seen the club's growth first hand. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Donnelly has featured in the other games at St James' Park describing leading out the team while carrying her young niece as one of her career highlights. The opportunity to play at the ground is yet to wear off on the Magpies number one having grown up supporting the club.

"For me personally it means the world especially growing up supporting Newcastle United," she said. "To get the opportunity to be on that pitch again is absolutely fantastic.

"Our support is probably the best in the country and every time we walk out on that pitch all you can see is a sea of black and white scarves swinging. It is absolutely fantastic and to have that support pushing us on definitely gives us the edge."

Newcastle go into Sunday's encounter as favourites being the home team but Portsmouth will be no pushovers. The away side have an even better record than the Magpies in the Southern division, leading by six points having lost just once all season.

Newcastle go into Sunday's encounter as favourites but Portsmouth will fancy their chances due to their impressive league form. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Given both teams' dominance of their respective divisions, the victor will go into the final as heavy favourites with teams from the Super League and Championship excluded from the competition.

For Langley, the chance to complete a league and cup double would be the perfect way to end the club's first season as professionals.

"I think we just want to repay the club's support," Langley said. "If we can repay them with a trophy and some silverware at the end of the season I think that's the main aim.

"We want to win a trophy this is a great opportunity. It's big moments and memories that we desperately want.

"We will be giving absolutely everything on Sunday to get to that final and we really just need everyone to push us over the line."

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