The Lasses were back at home yesterday, hosting a threatening Nottingham Forest side at the Academy of Light.
Before the game, the Lasses were in eighth with nine points, Forest sat five places above them in third with fourteen points.
The Nottinghamshire side were going through a bit of a sticky patch, having not won a game since their 7-0 thrashing over Loughborough Foxes a couple of weeks ago. They were subsequently beaten 2-1 by Huddersfield and held to a 2-2 draw with Hull last week.
After an incredibly unlucky 2-1 loss to West Brom last time out, Sunderland were aiming to convert chances into goals to build some momentum and get more points under their belts.
Gaffer, Mel Reay, said it was important that the side weren’t too disheartened by last week’s performance:
First and foremost, we were initially disappointed after the game and we’ve spent time watching it back.
Upon reflection we created lots of chances and on another day, we could have been taking some points away.
It’s important that we don’t get too disheartened by the result because the second half performance was definitely there.
Reay also emphasised the importance of how winning “breeds confidence” within a squad:
We want to win every game we play, and obviously winning breeds confidence within the squad.
I wouldn’t say we have a lack of confidence, but there’s probably a little bit of frustration that we didn’t get any points last Sunday.
Three points this weekend against Forest would certainly give us some momentum going into the next home fixture the following weekend.
Nottingham Forest manager, Andy Cook, told the media that the game against Sunderland would be one of his side’s “toughest tests”:
I know that this Sunday’s game will be one of our toughest test of the season based on previous battles with Sunderland.
The long travel up there in the morning will also add to the toughness of the fixture but they’re just things we’ve got to overcome.
Cook also praised the character shown in his side to draw 2-2 with Hull last week after initially being 2-0 down:
The character the side showed on Sunday was great and will definitely help us this weekend and in future games this season.
But we’ll make sure we work and improve our overall performance from Sunday so we don’t make the same mistakes again and we put in the performance across the full 90 minutes.
“I know that this Sunday’s game will be one of our toughest tests of the season based on previous battles with Sunderland."— Nottingham Forest Women FC (@NFFCWomen) October 31, 2020
️ ' #NFFC
Mel Reay made one change to the squad that started against West Brom last week, with Eve Blakey coming in for Jessica Brown.
Forest also made one change ahead of the game, Lucy Johnson replacing Hayley James.
Sunderland kicked off and the beginning of the game was littered with chances from both sides.
Forest had an early chance with a Johnson cross to Rosie Axten blocked and cleared.
The Lasses were quick to respond with their own chance, when just minutes later when Maria Farrugia rattled the crossbar after being teed up by Louise Griffiths. Kiera Ramshaw’s resulting shot was blocked and cleared.
Just minutes later, Forest had another crack on goal when Rebecca Rayner found some space but hit her shot wide.
Axten then had another shot at goal with a first time strike flying well over the bar.
Sunderland continued to create plenty of chances throughout the half and looked the more likely to score.
Abbey Joice was looking particularly threatening, setting up Ramshaw in the 17th minute, whose shot flew wide. Moments later, she had her own shot at goal which flew past the far post and wide.
Emily Scarr and Eve Blakey also had chances on target which just went wide of goal. Forest ‘keeper Aja Aguirre was called into action towards the end of the half to save Ramshaw’s low shot at goal.
Sunderland carried this momentum into the second half and Ramshaw had a chance early in the half, after pressure from Blakey forced Aguirre to make a mistake, with the ball finding Ramshaw’s feet, but was sliced wide.
Farrugia continued to pose problems for Forest, and made a good move in the eighteen yard box before curling the ball just wide of the post.
The Lasses were banging at the door, and it was Ramshaw who eventually broke the deadlock in the 57th minute. After receiving the ball from Joice, the captain smashed the ball across the goalmouth and straight into the back of the net. 1-0 Sunderland.
Ramshaw was on the hunt for another goal and came close in the 70th minute, smashing the ball into the side netting.
However, Forest were beginning to wake up and Rayner and Charlotte Steggles both had shots on goal in quick succession, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
The away side had their best chance of the match in the 75th minute when Rayner made a run down the wing and crossed to an unmarked Johnson, who put it wide of the goal.
Sunderland had another good chance in the 79th minute, with a pass from Farrugia setting up Scarr, who forced Aguirre into action to save the ball.
Forest continued to press into the final minutes of the game, with Johnson whipping in a cross which wasn’t met and Hewitt trying her luck from long range. Claudia Moan was called into action late on to prevent the equalizer and the game finished 1-0 to the Lasses.
Mel Reay spoke to the media after the game and was “delighted” with her side’s response after last weekend:
We’re absolutely delighted, we worked really hard in training this week after the disappointment of last weekend so to see it all come off today was really pleasing and I’m delighted for everyone involved.
The gaffer was also pleased with how the Lasses performed and carried out their game plan:
We had a game plan and we had certain elements in possession and out of possession that we wanted to work towards and fair play to the Lasses they absolutely carried that game plan out brilliantly.
We took our chances, and although we did create a lot, it only took one, but the chances are still there that we created and defensively we were absolutely solid. I can’t really remember Claudia [Moan] having to make too many saves to be honest. We were very much worth the three points today.
Captain Ramshaw also shared her thoughts post-match about how important the momentum for today’s game is going forward:
The win feels really good. I think we’ve got the momentum now to go and push forward into our games, hopefully if nothing affects us with the lockdown.
We just want to keep going now that we’ve got that momentum and everyone’s working together and you can feel it coming together on the pitch, attackingly and defensively.
I think we defended really well today but we also attacked really well and had plenty of chances and luckily we got one in the back of the net.
Opposition reaction from social media or club website]
Fans were also pleased to see the Lasses win all three points at the Academy of Light.
That’s a great big 3 points on the board. A smashing result. Well done team!! ❤️ https://t.co/drzqHBk3UO— Jon Hume (@GinHume) November 1, 2020
The Forest victory was well-received by the Lasses’ followers at Roker Report. Graeme Field warned against writing the Lasses up when they’re up against it:
I thought we went into the game today as underdogs, against a Nottingham Forest side who’ve started the season strongly. Sunderland Ladies played well in defeat against WBA last week and were looking to put in a similar performance, but taking the chances that came their way.
Following the club’s Twitter feed, they painted a picture of a dominant performance where only the finishing was letting them down. Sunderland legend Kiera Ramshaw found the back of the net and they were rewarded with a well deserved three points.
I’m going to have to stop writing this set of players off. They’re constantly proving me wrong when they look up against it. Brilliant today, well done.
Ant Waterson went on to emphasise the importance of the three points gained:
What a massive three points that could be. Sunderland needed to win and they delivered, a very welcome clean sheet as well.
So happy for Kiera Ramshaw today. This puts Sunderland bang in the mix now. Well done Lasses!
Rich Speight also welcomed the win, and hopes that the coronavirus crisis won’t prevent the league from being completed once again:
This result capped a great weekend all round, results-wise, for Sunderland AFC. Mel and the Lasses have really turned around their campaign recently, and I just hope that the final three games of the already short, 11 game WNL season can be played out as England enters another lockdown this week.
The win over Forest sees the Lasses move up to sixth in the FAWNL Northern Premier Division. Elsewhere in the league, leaders Huddersfield had a tough game against West Brom, but managed to bag all three points winning 3-2.
Derby County also continued their campaign for the top spot with a 3-1 win against Burnley.
Additionally, two games were called off, Fylde against Stoke and the Yorkshire derby between Hull and Sheffield.
Sunderland are due to play Loughborough Foxes next. The Foxes were the victims of a 2-1 defeat to Middlesbrough thanks to a late Tyler Dodds goal.
However, there is uncertainty about whether women’s football games in Tier Three and below will be able to go ahead following on from the announcement of another national lockdown taking place from Thursday.
As of writing, there has been no official communication about whether teams will be able to play next week.
UPDATE: Following the Government announce last night, we are aware of the uncertainty relating to what it means for The #FAWNL. We are currently waiting for guidance and clarification from The FA & DCMS and will update at the earliest opportunity. #WeAreNational #FAWNLfamily pic.twitter.com/ZzLJC2xzvM— FAWNL Official (@FAWNL) November 1, 2020