Barclay’s Women’s Championship
Coventry United Women v Sunderland AFC Women
2pm, Sunday 5 December 2022, Butts Park Arena, Coventry, CV1 3GE
Tickets: £7 Adults, £3 Kids, £5 Adult Concessions - multi-ticket offers including family tickets available. Click here to book. Pay at the gate is available.
Coverage: The game will be broadcast live and for free on the FA Player streaming platform. Click here to go straight to the stream just before 2pm.
Highlights: Hightlights and a full match replay will be on the FA Player on Monday morning.
LASSES PODCAST LIVE— Roker Report - The Lasses (@RRLasses) December 1, 2022
“Relegation 6-pointer” in December@antony_waterson previews the biggest match of our @BarclaysWC season @CovUtdWomen v @SAFCWomen alongside Godivas commentator @paulwradio
Join the Space at 8.30!#HawayTheLasses | #SAFC ⚪️https://t.co/FIh12ym1g9
This - perhaps our least glamourous away day of the season - really is the big one. It’s hard to underplay the importance of this fixture for these two teams. The pressure is on.
A win for Sunderland will take us seven points clear of the Godivas and condemn them to their tenth straight league defeat. A win for the home side will take them to within a point of us, and mean that we’re at serious risk of dropping out of the second tier.
Last season this game was the opener, marking our first game at this level since 2014, and was won by a goal from Jess Brown. Coventry then almost went bust, suffered a 10-point deduction, and only a remarkable upturn in form in the new year and a fairytale last-minute winner in the decider against Watford saved their bacon.
Last season's glories now seem a long way off for both sides. Both have scored at a rate of a little over a goal every two games and only two games of the 18 we’ve played collectively - our win and draw - haven’t ended in defeat.
So it has nil-nil written all over it, but both teams will be playing for their survival and something tells me it could be an unlikely classic.
This is the first of four games in 11 days for the Lasses in a season that’s been marked by long periods without any fixtures. It’s a punishing pre-Christmas schedule but, with the others being cup ties, the priority for Mel Reay must be this game and this game only.
Two of the Lasses stalwart figures, defender Faye Mullen and captain Keira Ramshaw, have undergone surgery this week for their respective ACL and foot injuries. Other than those two and the long-term absentees Emily Hutchinson and Abby Towers, we’ve got a decent amount of options across the park.
In Mel Reay’s pre-match update we learned that Louise Griffiths is being monitored for niggle picked up during the week and that we’re managing Katy Watson, who came back from England duty with an injury. As ever, finding the right balance of youth and experience will be key for the Head Coach.
Last Sunday’s valiant performance away at the giants of Manchester City in the Conti Cup will have given us a lot of confidence, but the fact remains that we’ve not scored a single goal since the middle of October. Quiet simply, that has to change today or we’re in deep, deep trouble, and there’s been additional shooting practice during training.
Formation-wise, five at the back has been the preferred model recently but, with the relatively weak opposition and the desperate need for a result, it could well be that a more progressive 4-3-3 or even a 4-4-2 is adopted for this one.
We should expect Emily Scarr, who was under the weather last weekend, to return to the side to lead the attack, and then the question will then be how much support she is offered, and by whom.
Abbey Joice made her sole appearance of the season as a number 10 in the 0-1 loss to Lewes a couple of weeks ago, but it was Nicki Gears who was employed to do the frankly thankless task of pressing and harrying upfront last weekend against two experienced Lionesses in Steph Houghton and Alex Greenwood.
Certainly, something needs to change tactically, and it will have to go a lot deeper than a pre-match game of dodgeball at Friday night training if we are going to avoid the ignominy of being the only side to drop points against Coventry United so far this season.
Hastily assembled and floundering, the Midlands side has moved away from any pretense of a full-time model and now seem structurally prepared for a more sustainable existence outside of the WSL structures under their new owner Lewis Taylor.
Jay Bradford was rewarded for providing the most romantic phoenix-like resurrection story in the history of English women’s football by not having her contract renewed in the summer. Instead, the experienced Lee Birch, who previously stewarded the unfortunate London Bees in the Championship, was appointed as her replacement.
Since then they’ve not won a league game, and they’ve not drawn league a game either. They are rock bottom of the division but, due to our terrible form, they’re far from cut adrift in the single relegation spot.
The team has been almost completely rebuilt and bears only a passing resemblance to that which managed the greatest of escapes. They’ve seen star striker Katie Wilkinson depart for Southampton, and her replacement is Meesha Dudley-Jones who was recruited over the summer from National League side West Brom, though Anna Wilcox and Katie Morris are still regulars in the squad.
We’d be foolish to write off the Godivas. They’ve scored a couple of goals recently in their games against Durham and Spurs, although they’re clearly very vulnerable at the back. They know that a result today will send shock waves through Sunderland AFC and provide them with the boost they need ahead of the second half of the season.
Head to Head
Played - 2
Sunderland Wins - 1
Draws - 1
Coventry Utd Wins - 0
Form (Last 5 League Fixtures)
Sunderland - WLLLL
Coventry Utd - LLLLL
Last time out at Butts Park
Coventry United 0-1 Sunderland
FA Women’s Championship, 11 August 2021
Jess Brown 60’
One to Watch... Mary McAteer
Aston Villa loanee McAteer is a Welsh Under 19 international forward who joined Coventry in September to gain regular first-team experience.
She was a hot shot in the WSL Academy league last season scoring 18 goals in 19 games, has pace and control and can create as well as finish, as exemplified by her assist for Dudley-Jones as they beat Southampton 2-0 in the Conti Cup back in October.