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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 in first home game of 2022 this afternoon v Sheff Utd

The Lasses fans return to Eppleton this afternoon for the first time since that penalty shootout win against Liverpool in December. We have all the build-up here ahead of what’s sure to be another close game in the FA Women’s Championship.

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

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Sunday 6 February 2021

Sunderland AFC Ladies v Sheffield United Women

FA Women’s Championship

Eppleton CW, Hetton-le-Hole, DH5 9NA

Kick-Off: 14:00

Tickets & Match Coverage

Tickets: Tickets are £5 for adults and £2.50 for Under 16s and Over 65s. Sunderland men’s season ticket holders can also get a 12 price ticket for this match. Book online now or pay on the gate with a card.

Travel: Take the number 55 bus from Sunderland Interchange (Stand K) to Houghton Road-Caroline Street, Hetton. Depart 13:05, Arrive 13:33

Coverage: Updates on Twitter via @SAFCLadies and we’ll be sharing photos, videos and comments on the game throughout via the @RokerReport account

Highlights: The FA Player will have highlights and a full match replay from Monday afternoon.

Podcast: All things being well, we will have the Lasses Podcast Live as usual on Monday night, 8.30-9.30 pm.

The build-up...

The Conti Cup match earlier this season between Sunderland and Sheffield United produced some fantastic late drama, some hilarious video footage, and some of the most iconic photos from this year’s campaign so far. Then, in December, we were primed for another trip to Chesterfield before Covid-19 hit the Blades’ squad and the game was postponed.

Sheffield United Women v Sunderland Ladies - FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Mel Reay changed formation on Sunday against Birmingham in the FA Cup, with a 5-4-1 formation and Marai Farrugia as a lone striker. Tactically we played on the break, but we should probably expect a different approach at home in the league and we could even see the full debut of new signing Katy Watson.

Sunderland AFC’s Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman, in conversation with Frankie and Danny on the club’s official “Unfiltered” podcast this week, spoke about the progress the Lasses have made this season:

The Ladies team is continuing to progress with the project we got off the ground in the summer. Obviously, results have been difficult in that league, and the team structure has changed a little bit within the window - we’ve lost a couple and promoted a couple of young players, which is as per our sort of strategy.

They obviously had an incredible game against my old club Birmingham at St Andrew’s in the Cup on Sunday, narrowly missed out which is obviously shows the potential in the group. Naturally at that level, with the squad that we’ve got it’s tough, but I think that’s been a tough period that we need to get through and obviously we need to build from there. Alex [Clarke] is doing a great job with Mel to do that.

It’s a very, very competitive league and, consideringthe manner inwhich we got up and everything else... [we’re] pleased with the progress everyone’s making on and off the pitch. They don’t deserve some of the results they’ve had - but these things happen in a competitive arena.

Then on Friday we had the fantastic news that utility player Neve Herron, who has been so impressive this season, has signed a contract keeping her at the club until the summer of 2023. It was a big boost to the Lasses fanbase, who see Herron as the future of our club, to know that Sunderland are determined to keep her on Wearside for at least another year (or get a fee for her if she does attract the attention of WSL suiters this summer).

Photo by Laura Burton

Sheffield United were well beaten in their FA Cup clash against WSL side West Ham on Sunday. As the transfer window closed, they picked up youngster Lara Miller from Lewes. She’s a Manchester United youth product and has played for England at age-group level. Lara is a talented young player and is very versatile with playing experience at the back and in midfield. Manager Neil Redfern told She Kicks Magazine:

I think at the age she’s at, she’s perfect for us to bring in and develop and I’m really looking forward to working with her.

And Miller said she was looking forward to working with Redfern:

I’m really happy to be here. All I’ve heard is good things about the club and to have the chance to work under Neil with the experience he has, hopefully he can help me with my experience in the game.

They earned a well-deserved 1-1 draw in their previous Championship game up in the northeast at Durham, and midfielder Bex Rayner was pleased to come away with that result:

I think as a team we weren’t on it in the first half. But we came into it in the second half, we started to battle with them physically and managed to get the goal, which I think we deserved. And it was great for me to get it. We had a few cleared off the line, I feel like in the back of our mind we knew that it was coming.

Although they were getting in and around the box, I feel like on the counter we were able to go and do that and battle with them physically on our set-pieces. I’m happy with a point.

And ahead of the game, boss Neil Redfern was looking to continue the recent run of decent results in the Championship, telling the club’s Twitter account:

We want to try and keep this good run going. We’re in good form, we went unbeaten in the league in three tough games last month.

The girls are doing well. I said to them this week, we measure ourselves on how we improve through the season.

Sheffield United Women v Sunderland Ladies - FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup
Abbey Joice of Sunderland Ladies is challenged by Bex Rayner of Sheffield United Women during the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup match between Sheffield United Women and Sunderland Ladies at Technique Stadium on October 14, 2021 in Chesterfield, England.
Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

The Stats...

The head-to-head stats on this one make intriguing reading and point towards one of the most closely fought encounters in a season full of closely fought encounters in the closely fought FA Women’s Championship.

Coming into this game, Sunderland have not won in their last five, and picked up only one point, both home and away. That’s 0.2 points per game on average, although we’ve scored three times in the last five fixtures.

Sheffield United have picked up five points from the last five games both home and away, with the side currently unbeaten in two games in the league away from home and are three Championship games without defeat overall.

However, things have not been going that well in front of goal for them recently, with the side failing to score in two of the last five games. In 46% of games, they’ve not hit back of the net, although they are averaging a goal a game in their last five.

The xG stats demonstrate Sunderland’s relative lack of creativity at 0.86 at home, and we have an xGA of 1.39 in home games. Sheffield United, higher up the table, have an XG of 1.44 away from home and an xGA at 1.23. But they don’t seem to convert their chances - average goals on the road for the Blades are only 0.71.

The stats on shot conversion are also intriguing, Sunderland have on average 9 shots per match and United almost 14, but our shots per goal are lower at just over 11 whereas our visitors need almost 17 shots to score this season. makes Sheffield United very marginal favourites for this, although a low-scoring draw may be the best bet.

League Form (last 5 FA Women’s Championship Fixtures)

Sunderland AFC Ladies - LDLLL

Sheffield United Women - LLDWD

Head to head...

(All venues, all competitions, including friendlies)
  • Played 2
  • Sunderland Wins: 0 (1 on pens)
  • Draws: 1 (Sunderland won on pens)
  • Sheffield United Wins: 1
  • Sunderland Goals: 1
  • Sheffield United Goals: 3

Last time out...

Sheffield United 1-1 Sunderland (Sunderland won 2-4 on pens)

Sweetman-Kirk ‘51, Ramshaw 90+5 (Pen)

On to watch... Lucy Watson

With five league goals to her name so far, the England starlet is one of the FA Women’s Championship’s breakout players this season. She’s Sheffield United’s top scorer and is a player who is already on the radars of the WSL’s top brass. An international teammate of Neve Herron and Jess Brown, Watson is part of the next generation that is being nurtured in tier 2.

Speaking to She Kicks magazine when Watson extended her contract before the start of the campaign, manager Neil Redfern was glowing in his praise for her a year on from her transfer from Doncaster Belles:

I look at her now and there’s a real maturity about her game now. She understands the roles across the front three and gives us real quality.

England v Northern Ireland - UEFA Women’s U19 Championship Qualifier
Lucy Watson of England U19s and Sheffield United
Photo By Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile via Getty Images


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