First Half Action
Sunderland lined up with their regular starters back in the side, but it was London City Lionesses who were the quickest out of the blocks, scoring within the first 5 minutes after some slack marking from a corner saw defender Carly Girasoli get free in the box and finish.
It remained 1-0 throughout the half, the howling wind at Eppleton CW favouring the away side. The Lasses were forced to show their now customary steel at the back, Grace McCatty, in particular, shining with a wonderful tackle as London broke quickly mid-way through the half. Nevertheless, the visitors missed two clear-cut opportunities to double their lead just before half time, but failed to take their chances including a 6-yard free header missed by Girasoli.
Sunderland, however, were threatening in patches too and suffered from some pretty shoddy refereeing decisions. After initially being denied a clear corner, they then had a clear shout for a penalty for a foul on the tricky Neve Herron turned away, and suffering as Girasoli fouled Emily Scarr as she ran through clear on goal, but the Lioness’s goalscorer was booked rather than sent off.
Second Half Action
Sunderland, with the wind at their backs, dominated from the outset in the second period. First, Emily Scarr was played through by McCatty but couldn't beat Charlotte Fleming in the London goal. Then Sunderland hit the bar, Herron crossing for McCatty who could only head off the crossbar.
Herron then had an effort well saved and Emma Kelly a shot from distance went wide. But the goal wouldn’t come and even the changes made by Mel Reay, subbing Jess Brown for Holly Manders and Faye Mullin for Eve Blakey, couldn't change the scoreline.
Sunderland kept pushing, but the performance grew more ragged as the side pushed for an equalising goal. The three in midfield all struggled to gain control of the game, with the efforts they’ve put in over the last week starting to show. It has to be remembered that these are part-time players, travelling up and down the country around work and family commitments - nobody should doubt their commitment to the cause. But it wasn’t quite enough today.
Towards the end of the game, Holly Manders had a cross-shot that narrowly went over, but London sealed the win with a second goal. Allison Cowling spilled a shot, allowing Rianna Jarrett to steal in and score with only two minutes left on the clock.
It was a cruel blow on a bitterly cold afternoon. The Lasses fought valiantly right to the end, but with no end product. Sunderland fans don’t mind seeing their side going down to a defeat as long as we can see that the players on the field have made every effort and this was ultimately, as the cliche goes, just one of those games.
Editors’ Reflections [Rich]
The result may not have gone our way, but this wasn’t the worst thing about today. The pre-match chaos caused by the inconsistency, the lack of organisation, and lack of clear and visible communications by Sunderland AFC regarding ticketing and access to the ground was even more disappointing.
With only pre-booked electronic tickets accepted and the “donation” pay-on-the-gate option that had been in use against Durham apparently abandoned due to fears it was actually illegal (a fact which in itself beggars belief at a professional football club) meant that individual kind-hearted fans were left purchasing multiple tickets on their mobile phone for unfortunate fellow supporters who had travelled without booking.
Some of these folks had come from as far away as Barnard Castle to watch the Lasses play, and for a club to essentially turn away potential customers - with stewards left saying it was (rightly) above their pay-grade to resolve - is something that needs sorting as a matter of priority by those in charge of ticketing and communications at the club. I have raised it with Red & White Army Supporters Trust in my capacity as Roker Report’s rep.
All we know for certain is that it will be the ever-helpful Chris Waters who is left going to clear up their mess once again.