Sunderland Ladies are back in action today in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division, taking on Burnley at 2pm behind closed doors.
The game is the Lasses’ first in six months, with their last league fixture being in March where they beat Stoke 4-2.
Mel Reay’s side will be looking to pick up from the fantastic run of form that they had last season. The side had promotion to the Championship within their sights, topping of the league with forty points, eleven ahead of their nearest contenders Derby.
Today’s opponents, Burnley, were in fifth when football was suspended in the spring, but had average points per game been used to conclude the season they would have finished third behind Sunderland and Nottingham Forrest.
However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the FA voided tier three and below of the women’s leagues with no promotion or relegation from the Championship, leaving Sunderland to face another season in the Northern Premier Division as the wealth gap widens between the WSL and the rest.
Despite how frustrating this must have been for the team, the focus has turned to preparations for the season ahead. After months of not playing, Sunderland have had a fairly successful pre-season. Despite suffering a narrow 1-0 loss to rivals Newcastle, the Lasses hit some huge score-lines over the last couple of weeks.
At the start of the month they beat Norton and Stockton Ladies 7-0, and their final pre-season fixture saw the side score a whopping 13 goals against Wallsend, with four goals from Maria Farrugia and hat-tricks from Eve Blakley and captain Kiera Ramshaw. Burney should, however, prove a sterner test this afternoon.
The summer months have seen the recruitment of several new players in order to strengthen the side for the upcoming campaign. Former Black Cats Abbey Joice and Olivia Watt have linked up with the side and players such as Emily Scarr from Middlesbrough and Holly Manders from Durham Wildcats have also joined the side for the 2020/21 campaign.
Unfortunately, no spectators will be allowed to watch Sunderland Ladies games for the foreseeable future. However, you can keep up-to-date with the game by following their Twitter @SAFCLadies.