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Match Preview: Coventry United LFC vs Sunderland AFC Ladies in Championship season opener!

The Lasses’ are now officially back in Tier 2, taking on a revamped Coventry United FLC side in the midlands. It should be a stern test for Sunderland, and we’ve got everything you need ahead of kick-off.

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Sunday 29th August 2021

Coventry United LFC vs Sunderland AFC Ladies

FA Women’s Championship

Butts Park Arena, Coventry, CV1 3GE

Kick-Off: 2pm


Tickets & Match Coverage

Tickets: £10 for adults, £7 concessions, £3 for Under 16s available from https://culfc-media.co.uk/match-day-tickets/ and on the gate.

TV/Stream: Full match replay will be available via https://faplayer.thefa.com/home/womens-championship from Monday

Radio: Live match commentary available via Radio Plus Coventry http://radioplus.org.uk


The build-up...

Sunderland boss Mel Reay has been speaking on the club’s SAFC Unfiltered podcast this week and, as well as setting the benchmark on Danny Collins’ quiz, she was asked by Frankie Francis about the limits on Sunderland’s ambitions this season. In response, Mel was pretty realistic in managing supporters expectations:

There’s no barrier [to Sunderland reaching the WSL], it will grow naturally, it’s important that we sustain it and it grows steadily, it can’t grow too quickly because we’ll not be able to cope with that. We need to be able to be sitting in this position next year where we’re still in the league, and hopefully we’ve learned more and we’re more experienced and we’ll be able to push and push a little bit harder and a little bit higher at that time.

The gaffer was also asked about the importance of the Lasses fans in the future of the club this season.

We’ve played two years behind closed doors, we’ve not seen our fans in two years. It’s going to be really exciting... [the fans] are chomping at the bit on social media to try to get every little piece of information, because they can’t wait to see the players. …They’re all going to Coventry as well so we’ll have a little away crowd.

Being in the Championship means a bigger profile for the Lady Black Cats this season, and the top-quality social media output in the run-up to the new term has been great to see. Charlotte Potts, re-signed after a stint in Scotland with Hibs, gave a quick interview for the league’s Twitter account the other day.

Formed in 2013, Coventry United FLC are affiliated with the 9th tier men’s side Coventry United, who were formed in protest at the shenanigans at Coventry City FC. With the women’s team playing in the 2nd tier, they are clearly the senior partner in this relationship.

New financial backing has given our opponents a huge boost over the summer, with the ownership offering players professional contracts while Sunderland’s squad remains a mixture of semi-pros and amateurs.

United manager, Jay Bradford, cut a confident figure this week when speaking with BBC Coventry & Warwickshire Radio, as quoted on the Midland WOSO website:

I want to win the league. I think any manager that says they don’t want to win is in the wrong job. For me winning is the goal but there will be bumps along the way so we’ve got to overcome that and see what happens.

The board have been exceptional with me and this year in particular they’ve given me everything I’ve asked for. Hopefully we can repay that generosity on the pitch; we had some sticky moments last year, that’s no secret. When I was young I knew I wanted to be first-team manager of this club and that happened. I’m living that childhood dream and I think the club back me to do that.

New club captain Kate Wilkinson, the Women’s Championship’s top scorer with Sheffield United last season, also expressed high hopes for their future with the club going professional:

I want to be in an environment where we want to win. They’ve got big visions here at the club and I really bought into that. Signing a professional contract makes it all worth it; all the late nights, travelling, and hard work. It’s the dream to play football every day for your job and that’s what we do. It’s a credit to the owners for giving us that opportunity to do it.

According to the club’s website, their summer signings also include Naomi Hartley, Nat Johnson, Rio Hardy, Olivia Fergusson, Grace Riglar, Charlie Escourt, and Lucy Thomas. Former England under 19 international Mollie Green will offer them some real quality and experience in midfield, so this will surely be a very tough test for the Lasses.

Brighton and Hove Albion v Everton - FA Women’s Super League - The People’s Pension Stadium
Former Everton, Manchester United and Birmingham City player Mollie Green has signed for Coventry this summer
Photo by Steve Paston/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

Last season’s league form...

Sunderland AFC Ladies - W-W-L-W-W

Sunderland didn’t dominate Women’s National League North Premier last season the way they did in 2019/20, but their form was excellent before the campaign was curtailed due to covid-19.

Coventry United LFC - L-W-W-L-L

Coventry finished 10th in the FA Women’s Championship last season, coming second bottom of the table. The squad has been rebuilt over the summer, so we can’t read too much into this.


Head to head...

This is the first-ever meeting between these two sides, so a little bit of SAFC Ladies history will be made today.


Roker Report Predictions...

Katie Murillo says... I think it’ll be a difficult game but we could snatch a 1-0 win.

Ant Waterson says... Arrggghh, I don’t want to be totally negative but Coventry are a good side. I think a draw would be a great result for the lasses to start so I'm gonna say 1 1. Ramshaw for us.

Graeme Field says... It’s a tough game to open the season. The lasses will be organised and our new signings have already settled into the side well. I’m going for a 2-2 draw. Good luck and enjoy. Eve Blakey to make even more of a name for herself with an opening day goal.

Rich Speight says... A tough start to the campaign but we know we can score goals, and I’d be happy to come away from the midlands with a 2-2 draw.


REPORT & PLAYER RATINGS!

Andy’s Player Ratings: Sunderland 1-0 Bolton Wanderers - Three more points for the Lads!

FEATURES!

Classic clashes: Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers

MATCH PREVIEWS!

Starting XI: Is this the Sunderland side that will take on Bolton this afternoon?