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Bristol City Women v Sunderland Ladies - Barclays FA Women’s Championship

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Reay’s Riddle: What needs to change if Sunderland Women are to rescue their season?

It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong for the Lasses this season, but as we prepare for a difficult Conti Cup game at Man City, what do our writers think can be done to turn things around?

Photo by Ryan Hiscott - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Graeme Field says...

Well, I’ve been sat here a short while trying to think of some ideas to get our season going, and it’s not an easy one to answer. I’m sure manager Mel Reay is leaving no stone unturned to work out a way to get the goals we need to start moving up the league.

Do we perhaps need to look at the transfer market to give the team some extra help? Could we tempt an experienced goal scorer to Sunderland? Based on our current part time setup, it will be difficult, but we don’t know if that may change next season. A move in that direction might open the door to bringing someone in with full time football in mind.

When it comes to improving our goal scoring with the current group of players, we certainly can’t ask for any more effort. We are just lacking that bit of composure with our passing or final ball in the opposition half. Confidence is low, so it’s not going to be easy.

I would find a place for Libbi McInnes in midfield. Her composure on the ball will help in moving us up the pitch through well worked passing and gives us the opportunity to have more possession in games and give an alternative to hitting Emily Scarr in the channels.

I think just as important though, is something to drop for us in the box, get an early goal, the confidence returns and suddenly there are more options when we have the ball and we then look a different prospect to defend against.

We’re right behind you Lasses.

Crystal Palace Women v Sunderland Ladies - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Henry Browne - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Rich Speight...

We must acknowledge that Mel Reay’s options are pretty limited, both with regard to squad rotation and acquisition. We have known that we are short of at least one forward for over a year - we were talking about it on these pages about it this time last season. So far, Nicki Gears, for all her Championship experience, was out for a long time prior to joining us and has not got going since her move down the A690.

And we shouldn’t be banking on a 16-year-old kid to make the leap up to professional football and make an immediate and telling impact.

A reliance on youth might have been the way in the National League or in previous stints in Tier 2 back in the day, but right now it’s the lack of a physically powerful striker with in-game nouse - the tricks of the trade that means you’re in the right place at the right time when the ball breaks in the box, for example - that seems lacking. Indeed, when you look back at Keira Ramshaw’s goals last season, a good proportion were scored from inside the penalty area in this way.

Emily Scarr can be devastating on the break and effective when the ball is moved quickly on the edge of the area, but the biggest issue for me is that even before we get to the final third, more care needs to be taken with the ball. The number of promising positions and break-away opportunities we get into that are wasted through a miss-placed pass is, for me, at the root of the frustration we all feel when watching the games.

Whether that’s a lack of sharpness due to the ridiculous fixture schedule, or because of the fact that the players are working other jobs and not getting the preparation and recovery time they need, is in some ways a moot point - this is how things are, so solutions will have to be found and players taking responsibility to ensure the basics are done right has to be a big part of this.

Would switching systems work? I’m not convinced the problem lies in tactics or formations - although I suspect we will see a more direct, rudimentary style adopted for the rest of the season there’s now little to no room for “playing the right way” left, particularly when relegation is now only two wins for Coventry away.

Very simply, we need goals.

Crystal Palace Women v Sunderland Ladies - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Henry Browne - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Ant Waterson says...

After the pointless exercise of the Conti Cup, Sunderland go to Coventry in what is sure to be a real relegation six pointer.

What I would like to see is a little formation tweak and us going to two up front. Katy Watson has been patient this season and had already scored a goal and generally looked very dangerous whenever she has come on.

Playing Emily Scarr in a ten role where she can use her pace and directness just might unlock the improvement needed. So far the signings of Nicki Gears and Tyler Dodds just haven’t worked and I really don’t see the harm on giving Watson a go.

I disagree with Rich’s statement of throwing a kid in as that’s exactly what we did with the likes of Neve Herron and Jess Brown and they have gone on to be a staple in Sunderland's squad. Watson has the pace and finishing qualities to really scare teams and we are lacking a poacher in the box. I think she and Scarr could end up being a lethal partnership.

The thing I have noticed is we badly miss Keira Ramshaw. I’ll probably get stick for this as I am biased anyway for a few reasons. But you take the captain and leader out of any side and they struggle. Keira was also guaranteed to get us at least five goals a season and at the moment that is something we really miss. Just look at the men’s side against Cardiff when Corey Evans was on the bench.

I just hope the lasses just take the positives from the experience against City and really go for it against Coventry. It sometimes just needs a bit of luck to get us going again.

Ha’way the Lasses

Bristol City Women v Sunderland Ladies - Barclays FA Women’s Championship
Captain Key is sorely missed
Photo by Ryan Hiscott - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

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