Sunday 3rd April 2021
Sunderland Ladies v Sheffield FC Women
Vitality Women’s FA Cup Second Round
Academy of Light
Sunderland Ladies are finally back in action facing Sheffield FC in the second round of the Vitality FA Cup at the Academy of Light.
The fixture was originally due to take place at the start of January but was postponed due to Covid-19. Both sides saw their league being curtailed earlier last month and haven’t played a competitive match since mid-December.
Following the easing of lockdown restrictions, both sides have returned to training this week in preparation for Sunday’s game and we should expect that the players will take a while to get up to full speed, so the better prepared team may be the one to come out on top today.
Winning the cup game not only means progress through the competition and the prospect of earning prize money, but they’re able to continue playing some form of football. The winner of Sunday’s tie faces the prospect of a fifth round game against Burnley or FC Fylde, with a potential tie with WSL side Manchester United in two games time.
Mel Reay reported this week that morale in her squad was good, and captain Keira Ramshaw told the club website last week of her excitement at the return to football and at being with her teammates once more:
It’s been a long time without it, we have missed it so much. I can’t wait for us all to be back together in person, concentrating on our upcoming games and enjoying the normality of playing football and being together again.
Before the FAWNL was voided, Sunderland were on a good run of form, winning four out of their last five games. The Lasses were making their way up the table, finishing in fifth with fifteen points.
Their final game before the postponement and subsequent cancellation saw a nine-goal thriller against Derby at the Academy of Light. The Lasses nabbed the three points to beat the Rams 5-4 with goals from Louise Griffiths, Emily Scarr, Eve Blakey and two for Ramshaw.
Last Time We Met... at the Academy of Light
18th October 2020
FA Women’s National League Norther Premier Division
Sunderland Ladies 2-1 Sheffield FC Women
(Housley ‘38 (pen), Ramshaw ‘40, Farrugia ‘68)
Sunderland: Moan, Beer, Herron, Griffiths, McCatty, Ramshaw, Joice, Farrugia, Brown, Scar, Blakey Subs: Warren, McInnnes, Manders, Cowling, Studholme
Sheffield FC: Parsons, Smith, Housley, McLoughlin, Griffin, Marsden, Camfield, Conroy, Smith, Knight, Docherty Subs: Crossman, Pearson, Hobson, Edwards, Giampalma
The Opposition: Sheffield FC
Famously the oldest football club in the world, prior to the curtailment Sheffield were two from the bottom of the Northern Premier Division table in tenth, with six points from nine games.
Despite beating Hull 3-1 in what was their final game of the season in December, the club were on a bad run of form, winning only two games from nine and losing the rest.
Sheffield endured some walloping defeats throughout the season, including an 8-1 thrashing from Fylde. But, despite this bad record, in most matches the side proved to be tough opposition, losing by fine margins with three of their losses coming by the odd goal.
Sunderland Ladies Team News
The squad returned to training at the Academy of Light this week, and although no official updates on individual fitness were provided, but Sunderland should be at almost full strength today with youngsters Neve Herron and Holly Manders likely to be in contention for a place in the starting eleven alongside leading players Claudia Moan, Grace McCatty and Keira Ramshaw.
Mel Reay, in her wide ranging interview with Phil Smith for the Sunderland Echo, confirmed that Maria Farrugia will not be available for the game as she’s currently unable to travel from Malta due to travel restrictions and this will remain the case for the remainder of this season.
Speaking to the club’s media team this week, Reay was confident that the coaching team has done everything possible in line with the public health regulations to get the side ready in the short space of time available:
We’re really excited, we’ve been champing at the bit to get back to the Academy, but we’re finally here and looking forward to Sunday. It’s going to be tough for both teams, we’re both in the same position so it will be on the day, but we’ll prepare the girls as best we can during the week.
We’ve been working extremely hard during lockdown, the coaches have given great programmes, we’ve tracked and monitored them during their downtime so hopefully they’re in good shape for Sunday.
Possible XI: Moan, Beer, McCatty, Herron, Griffiths, Mullen, Ramshaw, Joice, Scarr, Manders, Blakey
With neither side having played a competitive game since mid-December, this is going to be a close game with both FA Cup progression and the chance to continue playing football being on the line.