Sunderland begin a new decade competing on three fronts as Melanie Reay’s Lasses look to secure promotion to the FA Women’s Championship while also chasing cup glory.
An undefeated campaign, an impromptu trip to the Stadium of Light and the emergence of the Lasses’ next potential star. We take a look at Sunderland’s season to date.
Position: 1st (+1)
Points: 25 (+4)
Goal difference: +25 (+6)
FA Cup: Third Round (05/01/20 vs Fylde)
FA WNL League Cup: quarter-finals (26/01/20 vs Derby County)
Average attendance: 453 (figure vs Burnley in the FA WNL Cup was unavailable)
Top scorer: Bridget Galloway (15)
Sunderland opened their promotion-chasing Northern Premier Division campaign by dispatching of West Bromwich Albion 2-0. A result that saw the Lasses move into fourth place – their lowest league position of the season.
The Lasses’ following game, the Wear-Tyne derby, was moved to the Stadium of Light after a fire at Eppleton CW Ground put the fixture in doubt.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, the day ended in celebration as Bridget Galloway snatched a winner in front of a crowd of 1,168 to send Melanie Reay’s side through to the next round of the FA WNL Cup.
A first win against Fylde in four attempts meant Sunderland’s perfect start to the season continued before a surprise result saw Middlesbrough hold the Wearsiders to a 1-1 draw.
Sunderland went on to score 13 goals in their next two games – putting nine past Hull before comfortably beating Huddersfield 4-1 – to move to the top of the table.
After moving to the summit of the Northern Premier Division on the 15th of September, Reay’s side haven’t looked back since; putting together a winning run of ten games across all competitions, beating the likes of Stoke and Nottingham Forest in the league, while managing to progress in the FA and WNL Cups.
Season Highs and Lows
Every win takes Sunderland three points closer to the title, so one could argue they are constantly achieving new highs, but in terms of individual games, the Lasses’ 0-2 win against Stoke stands out.
Stoke were in a rich vein of form heading into the battle of the Northern Premier heavyweights but, in a tightly-contested game, it was Sunderland who came out on top to strengthen their promotion bid.
It also marked the emergence of 16-year-old Neve Herron, who scored two spectacular goals to help Sunderland seal all three points.
The low, though not much of a low, is the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record as the Lasses failed to beat Middlesbrough in the Wear-Tees derby.
2020: the Year of Promise
Melanie Reay’s unbeaten side, who have conceded just seven goals while scoring thirty-two times, enjoy a six-point lead at the top of the FA WNL Northern Premier Division.
Their philosophy may be to take every game as it comes, but the goal is to achieve promotion to the Women’s Championship, and Reay’s side are well-positioned to realise their ambition; they have beaten the likes of Forest, Stoke and Huddersfield. And while they are still yet to face second-placed Burnley in the league, they can take some comfort from the fact that they knocked Matt Bee’s Burnley out of the FA WNL Cup earlier in the season.
Sunderland have only played at home twice this season and will reap the benefit, having put in the hard miles during the first half of the season, of the backing of home support and a much lighter travelling schedule.
Away from the league, the Lasses are currently enjoying stellar cup runs having reached the Third Round of the FA Cup and the quarter-finals of the FA WNL Cup. And while it’s simply unrealistic to expect to head to Wembley and lift the FA Cup, a victory against Fylde could be rewarded with a potential glamour tie; a throwback to just a few seasons ago when they competed with the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea on a regular basis.
However, as the highest-ranked side in the competition remaining in the FA WNL Cup, the lasses must be considered favourites to add silverware to their trophy cabinet come April.