EMMA Higgins may feel like she is in the footballing equivalent of facing a firing squad this Thursday evening (7.30pm)
The Northern Ireland women’s football team goalkeeper and her team-mates face the might of England in a UEFA Championship qualifier at Mourneview Park, Lurgan.
Given that England reached the final of the Women’s World Cup last year, and the fact that they won the return fixture between the sides 4-0 at Gillingham, the Cargan woman is in line for a busy evening.
Emma started her footballing career with Ballymena United Allstars before moving on to Glentoran Belfast United.
But her career has really gone into overdrive since she joined FA Women’s National Premier League side Leeds United Ladies.
That move came about as the 21-year-old has been studying at Carnegie Leeds Metropolitan University - the organisation which sponsors the men’s Irish Premier League in Northern Ireland.
Emma made her debut in the cauldron of the FA Women’s Cup and had an instant impact, making a crucial save in a penalty shootout victory over Chelsea, in a match where England captain John Terry was an interested spectator.
Her Leeds manager Rick Passmoore raved: “What made Emma’s performance even more special is the fact that she spent the whole of Saturday stuck in an airport in Northern Ireland due to the strong winds, waiting for her flight to bring her back to Leeds.
“Then she had to travel down to London late on Saturday night so it was hardly the best preparation for her but she did very well and even saved a penalty.”
Ironically, Emma’s rival for the number one shirt at Leeds is Carly Telford, one of the goalkeepers in the England squad, so the two will be hoping to be at opposite ends in Thursday night’s match.
The Northern Ireland squad also includes Ballymena United Allstars midfielder Sarah McFadden.