Sunderland AFC Ladies anticipated a thorough test of their title-winning credentials at a sunny but chilly Hetton Centre this Sunday afternoon.
The Lasses were quick out of the blocks, and prolific striker Bridget Galloway opened the scoring. It was all Sunderland, and the opening exchanges saw the dominant home side come close to extending their lead.
Against the run of play, Stoke netted an equaliser.
The Lasses didn’t let this effect them, and another goal from the lively Galloway gave Sunderland a 2-1 lead, going into the break perhaps feeling that their dominance throughout the half could have given them at least a couple more goals.
The second half began, and Sunderland again looked immediately dangerous. The quality the team had in all areas of the pitch proved too much for the visitors, who found Mel Reay’s side simply too hot to handle.
It came as no surprise that Galloway seized on a defensive lapse to complete her hat trick, with the prolific forward’s energy and quality causing the Stoke defence problems all game. The crowd were also hugely appreciative of the striker’s efforts on what was yet another superb afternoon for the 20-year old prospect.
Just 13 minutes from the end, the lasses scored again - and it was very pleasing on the eye too. Great work from energetic full back Griffiths in an advanced area saw her deliver a lovely crossed ball into the area for the hugely impressive Sunderland captain Kiera Ramshaw to head into the Stoke net.
With four minutes of the ninety to go, the away side scored a second from a free kick to prove that they weren’t going to give up.
Sunderland never looked at risk of losing the game and saw out the closing minutes with few problems. The crowd of 290 at the Hetton Centre was treated to a Sunderland performance that was fully of energy, quality and a ruthlessness they’ve seen so often this season.
All over the pitch Sunderland won their battles. Just looking at the bench shows what options they have. The lasses will be looking to continue their winning ways when Nottingham Forest are the visitors on Sunday 22nd March. Whether that game is played, remains to be seen. On the evidence of the performance this afternoon, Forest will need to be at their very best if they are to come away from Hetton with any points.