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London Bees v Brighton and Hove Albion Women - FA Women’s Continental League Cup

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Lasses Match Preview: Sunderland welcome WSL side Aston Villa in the Conti Cup today!

Sunderland’s first game against WSL opposition since being forced out of the top division in 2018 sees Aston Villa visit Eppleton this lunchtime.

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

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Sunday 5th December 2021

Sunderland AFC Ladies v Aston Villa Women’s FC

WSL League Cup, Group A

Eppleton CW Ground, Welfare Rd, Hetton-le-Hole, Houghton le Spring DH5 9NA

Kick-Off: 12:00


Tickets & Match Coverage

Tickets: Adults £5, Concessions £2.50 - available to book in advance here, with card payments accepted on the gate.

Travel & Info: The club's fantastic Supporter Guide is available on SAFC.com.

Live Coverage: If you can’t make the game you can watch it live on FA Player, follow along on @SAFCLadies on Twitter, and get updates on the performance, incidents and atmosphere at @RokerReport.

Highlights: Highlights and a full match replay are available from Monday on the FA Player.

Podcast: Roker Report’s Lasses Podcast Live will be broadcast live on Twitter Spaces at a slightly later time of 8.30-9.30pm BST on Monday. Just go to @RokerReport to listen in.


The Build-up...

Today we mark 100 years since the FA effectively banned women’s football, stunting its growth in an egregious act of misogyny by the patriarchs of the game. It’s a stain on the history of our beautiful game, an injustice that still needs to be righted, and something we’ve covered in a fantastic story on Roker Report today.

The days leading up to this game have been marked by the stories of Sunderland winger Emily Scarr having her drink spiked, and captain Keira Ramshaw having been injured in a car crash. Ramshaw has suffered a concussion and will miss this game as a result, but Scarr is in contention for the game.

The incident involving Scarr, in particular, underlines the risks that young women face when simply going about their business and should serve as a reminder of the work still to be done across society towards equality.

Grace McCatty is still away working in Africa, and Jess Brown has a tendon problem picked up on international duty at the young Lionesses camp at St George’s Park.

Sunderland Manager Mel Reay will have fond memories of this fixture, at least in her current role as manager - her first game in charge in March 2017 was a 3-2 victory over Villa in the FA Cup.

During Mel’s playing days, Aston Villa pipped Sunderland to promotion from tier two in 2002, but we have good record in recent years and have won all four out four last four encounters in all competitions going back to 2014, scoring three times in each fixture.

However, Sunderland go into this one as the lower-ranked side, with the Villains having consolidated their position in the WSL since they gained promotion from the Championship on Points Per Game in the Covid-19 affected season in 2019-20.

Reay gave an update on the squad ahead of today’s fixture to the SAFC website earlier in the week:

We’ve split the season into blocks. International breaks don’t give us that reflection opportunity anymore so than usual, as players are often away, so we’re just always looking to analyse and then move forward.

We can’t forget that we’ve picked up some big points and big results, and it’s important that we continue to learn. It’s a mixed bag coming up with three cup games and a league game which we undoubtedly see as most important, but it’s also a good chance to utilise the squad and look at where we can build and improve.

The gaffer was happy to see some of her squad in action for their national sides during the international break, which see sees as a crucial part in developing her young squad:

These girls have been selected based on their performances for this football club, so they need to continue to work hard to earn those international caps,

It’s great for them to get the experience – Libbi played 75 minutes for England Under-18s against Norway and played really well. Maria has had two international fixtures with Malta, and then Neve and Jess at St. George’s Park on a four-day training camp. It’s a great environment for them to learn in, and they can return hungry to keep playing well with us.

In her latest update, Reay spoke about today’s opposition:

Aston Villa are a good side. It will be a challenge – they’ve publicly said that they want to mix it up with their team selection, but you just don’t know. So we just go into these games concentrating on ourselves – we don’t really worry too much about who we’re going to come up against. It’s a chance to work on some things we want to be better at, and that’s the main focus over the next three games.

Sunderland have also signed 16 year old Daisy Burt, an exciting young prospect from the Sunderland RTC, and she will go straight into the squad for today’s game.

Aston Villa have been transformed this season with the mass-exodus from their city rivals Birmingham City of coaches, players and even supporters arriving over the summer.

Villa boss Carla Ward described her tenure in charge at the Blues as “enjoyable chaos” but questioned their understanding of and commitment to the women’s game. Hannah Hampton and Sarah Mayling joined Ward in her new venture, and the claret and blue’s win in the second city derby was particularly sweet a couple of weeks ago.

So far in the WSL Ward has proven successful at Villa, sitting in 10th place but level on points with Manchester City in 7th and, with three victories out of eight games so far, well clear of the bottom two sides Birmingham City and Leicester.

The Conti Cup hasn’t been kind to them so far, with a mix of youth and experience unable to overcome Championship opposition in Liverpool, to whom they picked up a point but lost on pens, and Sheffield United, who came to the midlands and beat them 2-1.

They will be smarting from their 5-0 defeat away at Man City before the international break, witnessed by many live on the telly. Ward was candid about what went wrong in that one, as reported in Birmingham Live:

It was a disastrous second half really, to be honest. We came in at half-time, we were happy with the first half, happy with the game plan. Five minutes into the second half you find yourself 2-0 down and that can’t be allowed to happen. But then we looked to change the formation. I looked to try and step onto them and put pressure onto the backline and, by doing that, it’s opened up spaces which has ultimately hurt us. It’s really, really frustrating.

As a WSL side, they’ve naturally had a good few players away on international duty, with Hannah Hampton an unused sub in England’s two World Cup Qualifiers, Alisha Lehmann playing for Switzerland in their wins over Lithuania and Italy, Chloe Arther away with Scotland, Emily Gielnik travelling for days to make a substitute appearance for Australia against the USA in Newcastle, New South Wales, and Ruesha Littlejohn was in action twice for Ireland too.

All this means we might expect a more youthful Villa team on show at Eppleton this afternoon as Ward bloods some of the Academy prospects that their supporters are keen to see in action.

Aston Villa Women v Sheffield United Women - FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup
Carla Ward of Aston Villa Women fist bumps Neil Redfearn of Sheffield United during the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup match between Aston Villa Women and Sheffield United Women at Banks’s Stadium on November 17, 2021 in Walsall, England.
Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Conti Cup Standings

Sunderland and Aston Villa are both playing their third fixture of this year’s competition, with only the Lasses having any realistic chance of catching Liverpool at the top of the Group A table.


Last Time We Played in the Conti Cup

FA Women’s WSL League Cup - 1st November 2017

Sunderland 3-1 Aston Villa

Sunderland Goals: Lucy Staniforth 28’, 57’

Aston Villa Goal: Ashlee Brown 90’


One to Watch... Deearna “Missy” Goodwin

One of four Aston Villa players to be selected for England’s Under 19s in September, Missy made her debut in the Young Lionesses 8-1 victory over Northern Ireland and grabbed her first goal along the way.

The Redditch-born prospect also played for England at earlier age groups, travelling to Florida to play against the USA for the Under 17s, and came through at local rivals Birmingham City. She has made her first team debut for Aston Villa in this season’s Conti Cup game against Sheffield United, and is highly rated by fans who follow women’s football in the midlands closely.

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