We don't mind the underdogs tag - Jess Fishlock
JESS Fishlock insists Bristol Academy aren't bothered by the fact they will be carrying an underdogs tag for the first time this season when they take on Birmingham City in tomorrow's Women's FA Cup semi-final.
The Vixens have a 100 per cent success rate from their four games so far this term – three of them in cup competitions and a 4-1 win over Liverpool in last weekend's opener in the FA Women's Super League.
But they are likely to be in for their toughest test so far at Tamworth against a Birmingham side who finished runners-up to treble-winners Arsenal in two competitions last season and are strongly fancied to be challenging for honours again this time.
"We will be going in to the game as underdogs and that is probably the first time this season that has happened – but we don't mind that," said Welsh international midfielder Fishlock. "It means the pressure will be on Birmingham because everybody will be expecting them to win. We know what we have to do and it's a question of mentality – we believe we can go there and win."
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Birmingham have a squad laden with England internationals, but Bristol have strengthened during the close season and boast more attacking power this term with Spanish international Laura Del Rio adding experience and new signing Nikki Watts netting three times in four games after her move from Reading.
Fishlock also got on the scoresheet twice in last weekend's victory at Skelmersdale, even though she has been asked to play in a different role this term.
Academy boss Mark Sampson said: "During her career, Jess has usually played up front, out wide or just behind the strikers. But we have asked her to play in a deeper position just in front of the back four as it allows her to get more of the ball and control the pace of the game.
"She took a bit of convincing at first, but she has been absolutely outstanding so far and her contribution has been fantastic.
"I wouldn't swap her for any other player in the league at the moment."
Fishlock said: "It's just a question of how I'm used for the best benefit of the team. I did play more of a holding role when I was in Holland with AZ Alkmaar, so I have done it before.
"Last season we had a couple of sitting midfielders, and that allowed me to play higher up the pitch.
"I love being on the ball and being involved and now I can go and look for it from a deeper position and try and make things happen, while players like Laura and Nikki can go and create further up the pitch.
"It does mean I have had to change the whole approach to my game because now I have a defensive job to do as well, so I'm not free to go and join in like I was, which is a little frustrating at times – but I understand that's not my role."
Bristol are bidding to reach the final for the second year in a row and Fishlock admits the fact it will be staged at Ashton Gate on May 26 is an extra incentive.
"We played there in the Champions League last season and it did feel like a home game," she said. "It's a great pitch to play on and if we can reach the final, I'm sure it would feel like it was being played at our ground."
Bristol will be without the injured Molly Clark (knee) and Stef Curtis (achilles), and will need to check the fitness of Jaz Matthews and Angharad James.