The Build Up
Sunday afternoon saw Sunderland making another trip down to Yorkshire, this time over to the west to play Huddersfield.
Before the game, the Lasses were ninth in the table with one win out of three under their belts. Huddersfield sat in sixth, but were only one point above them.
After a bit of a bumpy start to the season, Sunderland were going into the game with the momentum of a 3-2 victory over local rivals Middlesbrough from their midweek clash at the Stadium of Light.
Black Cats’ gaffer, Mel Reay, acknowledged before the match just how important the win against ‘Boro was.
It was important to get those first points on the board, it’s been a testing couple of weeks for the girls and us as staff given the pressure to get off the mark, we now need to use this as a platform.
Reay also went on to describe just how strong a side Huddersfield are.
We’ve always had tight games at Huddersfield, winning 3-2 a couple of years ago and coming from behind to win last year, it’s never been easy.
I expect it will be another tough test but I think now we are off the mark we can take a lot of confidence into Sunday’s game.
After a 3-3 draw to Fylde on the opening day and a 2-1 loss to Burnley the following week, Huddersfield were in a similar position to Sunderland, aiming to build some winning momentum after their victory against Hull on Thursday.
Momentum was also a key focus in manager Jordan Wimpenny’s comments.
That first win is so important. As a group we have been unfortunate in previous games to see the results go the way they have, but we have built each week ready for the next game as for us it was vital to get the win at Hull.
The second half performance was so much better. We saw a side of the group that demonstrates the mentality of a winning team and this is something we must continue on Sunday against Sunderland.
As expected, Reay made a couple of changes to the side that beat ‘Boro on Thursday. Erika Warren and Holly Manders were dropped to the bench with Louise Griffiths and Eve Blakey given a place in the starting line-up.
The opposition made one change to the side that faced Hull on Thursday with Katie Nutter coming into the starting line-up for Brittany Sanderson, having provided a creative flair for the Terriers in East Yorkshire earlier in the week. Additionally, forward Laura Elford made her second start of the season after scoring a brace against the Tigeresses.
A Sunday afternoon at the Stafflex was always going to be a difficult match for both sides. The home side nabbed an early goal in the seventh minute from Elford, who found the ball from a Nutter breakaway and tucked it into the bottom corner. 1-0 Huddersfield.
The Terriers were dominant from the get-go, having a range of chances at the Black Cats’ goal. Kate Mallin and Elford were looking particularly dangerous for the home side, making good runs and build-up play, as well as a couple of cracks on goal.
Sunderland struggled to get going in the game and for the most part, they were on the defensive back foot. Emily Scarr provided chances to score, with good through ball play to Kiera Ramshaw and a saved free kick. Further efforts from Maria Farrugia and Eve Blakey were missed.
Huddersfield doubled their lead five minutes before half-time, with Katie Nutter heading a goal from a Kate Mallin cross.
The first half was littered with fouls by the Terriers, and goalscorer Nutter found herself in the book for a bad tackle. 2-0 Huddersfield at half-time.
Sunderland went into the second half with work to do, but it was Huddersfield who remained in control. Ten minutes into the second half, Nutter got her brace from a Mallin link-up.
Grace McCatty continued her good work from the first half, making some crucial challenges to prevent more chances from the hosts. Sunderland also made a range of substitutions midway through the half, with Manders replacing Scarr and Libbi McInnes coming on for Blakey.
Towards the end of the second half, the Lasses started to get into the groove of the game, seeing a bit more of the ball and the opposition’s goal.
McInnes added an extra creative spark to the side, providing a chance for Ramshaw and having a crack at goal herself. Ramshaw also had a chance on goal and forced Bethan Davies to make a good save.
A penalty shout from the Black Cats was dismissed in the death of the game as Holly Manders was pulled down in the build-up of play. A final chance from the hosts in the 89th minute went amiss and the game finished 3-0 to Huddersfield.
Experienced Sunderland defender Grace McCatty spoke honestly after the game, and her disappointment with the way that the team had played was more than obvious:
[I’m] not going to sit here and throw out excuses when today we simply weren’t good enough. We are disappointed and frustrated in equal measure, and know we need to put things right! I promise we will do better, individually and collectively!
Huddersfield Town manager Jordan Wimpenny was, however, far more upbeat in his assessment of the game (which you can watch below).
The reaction of the Sunderland fans on social media was mixed, with the majority offering words of encouragement - though some supporters are beginning to grow concerned at the direction this previously successful Sunderland side are heading.
Heads up lasses. Keep working hard and keep going. We‘ll get there https://t.co/DOxYgR3ZZq— James Cook (@JTECook) October 4, 2020
So at what point do we stop using Preseason and losing players as an excuse? We’re 4 games in and have 3 points. I’m expecting players to step up and do better. ♀️ https://t.co/B8PhmdLWXV— Katie (@Katiemurillo) October 4, 2020
The Lasses’ contingent at Roker Report had a mixture of thoughts about Sunday’s performance. Ant Waterson said:
It was always going to be difficult today with such a quick turnaround after the ‘Boro game and against a very good Huddersfield side.
But, to be put away by three goals to nil is worrying. Sunderland have the talent to go up but maybe it’s taking longer to gel than we think.
RR Editor Rich Speight also echoed concern about the result and argued that the side urgently needed support from the club and the fans:
Such a disappointing result after the high of winning at the Stadium of Light on Thursday. The short turnaround between games surely had an impact but it’s hard not to be concerned that the Lasses were nowhere near where they were this time last year.
They need the support of the club and fans now more than ever.
Graeme Field suggests that this will be a season of transition for the Black Cats:
As a fan I’ve now had to draw a line under what happened last season.
This, in my humble opinion, is going to be a season of transition. There are plenty of talented players in the squad but I think it’s safe to say that there will be ups and downs this year. I’m confident that as the season goes on, we’ll see more cohesion as a unit, particularly defensively.
I really feel that anything the club can do to get fans into home games would help the team too. When things aren’t going well you see who can step up to the mark and there are plenty of players who I feel can do just that.
Here’s how things are shaping up after four games in the FA Women’s Northern Premier Division, and Sunderland’s next game is next Sunday at home against table topping FC Fylde.