The Build Up
Sunderland AFC Ladies were seeking to bounce back from last week’s disappointing start to the season with a win on Sunday’s trip down the A19 to Kingston-upon-Hull.
The club had been promoting the tickets for the game, and it’s no surprise that some Mackem die-hards made the journey to Humberside to see the Lady Black Cats - who dominated the FA Women’s National League North last season, take on Hull City Ladies FC at their Haworth Park home.
This was the first opportunity for the Lasses’ fans to get to see the team play after a hiatus of over six months, with last week’s fixture against Burnley being played behind closed doors with no video feed available. It was game in which Sunderland had a perfect prior record, and hopes were high amongst the squad and supporters that they could quickly get back to winning ways.
After 203 day I can finally say... GAME DAY!!! We’re on our way @SAFCLadies ❤️ ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/08EDRXvU92— Katie (@Katiemurillo) September 27, 2020
The Tigresses operate independently of Hull City AFC, with their own kits, sponsors, website and their home at Haworth Park, sitting in the heart of north of the city on the banks of the River Hull, putting them at the centre of the local community.
They have worked hard to implement guidelines to allow for a limited number of fans to attend Sunday’s game in a coronavirus-safe way, something that Middlesbrough also managed to achieve when Hull travelled to Teeside last weekend.
On paper, the Sunderland’s line up looked a little stronger this week, especially with the return of the side of Maria Farrugia after international duty with Malta. Also included in Mel Reay’s starting eleven were young winger Jessica Brown and Claudia Moan in goal, taking over from Allison Cowling who dropped to the bench along with Eve Blakey. Louise Griffiths missed the game due to injury.
The home side made three changes from the starting eleven that drew against Middlesbrough last weekend, with Florence Pegrum, Rebecca Beech, and Katie Thompson coming into the side.
Today's Team Vs Sunderland Ladies— Hull City Ladies (@HullCityLFC) September 27, 2020
40. Megan Cooke
2. Eden Pederson
5. Ellice Jackman
9. Jo Symington
25. Florence Pegrum
7. Liberty Bott
8. Ellie Tanser
15. Suey Smith
12. Emily Smith
11. Rebecca Beech
14. Katie Thompson
Subs: Westmorland, Ackroyd, Skinner, Allen, Burton
All the early pressure came the girls in Red & White - with Grace McCatty, Keira Ramshaw, Emilie Scarr and Neve Herron all having shots on goal inside the opening 20 minutes of the game.
However, these early chances counted for nothing as Hull scored the first goal of midway through the half, with Katie Thomson opening her account for the season. Sunderland rallied after the goal and had a couple of chances before half time, but the changes to the Hull City line-up continued to have impact as Pegrum slotted home to doubled their lead early in the second period.
Sunderland’s made substitutions in response and again pressurised the City goal, their reward coming in the 85th minute from a well-taken Ramshaw penalty, after Abbey Joice was fouled in the box by City substitute Skinner.
Unfortunately for the travelling faithful hoping for a dramatic last-gasp equaliser, the home side held out for the remainder of the game and even could have aded a third had not Moan saved following a dribbling break-away from Ackroyd. Hull’s official Player of the Match was awarded to Emily Smith and a full match report can be found on the Hull City LFC website.
Unfortunately just a consolation, but another pin point penalty from an #SAFC player this weekend!@Keys_Safc94 @SAFCLadies pic.twitter.com/LiPphaX9Hs— Chris Fryatt (@ChrisFryatt) September 27, 2020
No immediate reaction to the game reported from either Sunderland manager Mel Reay or captain Keira Ramshaw, but Grace McCatty took to Twitter to share her honest assessment of the performance
Not much to say about today’s game apart from we are all disappointed! Despite a strong opening period and lots of positive play we weren’t clinical enough and got punished for it. We reflect, learn and turn our attention to Thursday!
In contrast, Hull City manager, Adrian Costello, told their club website that he was delighted with his side’s performance:
I’m pleased because all the hard work we’re putting into training and the system we play is different from what the girls are used too, teams are seeing us play a different system to most teams in our league, I’m over the moon. You saw it at the end, what did it mean to the girls. Last season Sunderland scored 13 goals in two games against us and we only scored once and today for long periods of that game we were the better side.
That turn around in fortunes for Sunderland AFC Ladies, from winning almost every game last season hands-down to losing two in a row, has left some fans bemused by the look of the early WNL North league table.
The majority of the reaction on social media has been supportive and looking forward to having two games in quick succession to recover this week, but others have lamented the loss of key players from the last campaign, including the prolific Bridget Galloway, and fear that we’ll be hard pressed to regain such free-scoring form.
That sense of pessimism was shared by Roker Report’s Graeme Field, who lays the blame for the poor start at the hands of the club hierarchy:
This season is definitely going to be a struggle. The club should have fought the decision to void the season. They couldn’t be bothered and here we are. Best three players gone.
Typical of the club. Zero ambition.
Craig Chapman of the Roker Rapport Podcast also worries that the lasses “had barely any pre-season whilst Newcastle and Middlesbrough were back in training playing games. I think they’re in for a massive struggle this year,” whilst Ant Waterson, who has been following the team for years, also expressed his concern about a lack of time to gel and the loss of goalscoring form:
We all know Sunderland lost key players, but the players that came in were rushed into games instead of allowing time for the squad to settle. We all knew it would be hard to replace Potts, Lambert and Galloway but the new arrivals have barely had a chance to gel with the current squad and I feel the team is two games into a season and still finding its new identity. I don’t blame Mel Copeland in any way or her staff. I feel Sunderland AFC have just dropped the ball and hastily put friendlies in last minute, a bit like the mens side.
The lack of a goalscorer is also a worry. Sunderland have scored two goals in their opening games and one of those was a penalty. Again, like the men’s side, I feel we are missing a goalscorer. The chances came and went yesterday against Hull and ultimately that cost us. Someone needs to step up or a signing needs to be made in that area. Galloway’s goals are looking like they are going to be a huge miss unless it’s sorted.
Thursday sees Middlesbrough coming for a huge Derby game and for its a must win already if Sunderland want to repeat last seasons brilliant season.
Let’s hope that the big occasion of a Wear-Tees derby under the lights at the Stadium of Light this coming Thursday will provide the Lasses with the kick-start to their season. And wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to watch it too!
That table is upside down surely @SAFCLadies— David Keeler (@Squealer66) September 27, 2020