Sunderland ensured they would be playing Championship football again next season with a resounding 4 1 victory over Sheffield United at the Technique Stadium.
Mel Reay made three changes to the side that lost to Blackburn last week with Megan Beer, Faye Mullen, and Holly Manders replacing Jess Brown, the suspended Louise Griffiths, and the captain Keira Ramshaw, who has tested positive for Covid-19.
The Lasses started brightly with Maria Farrugia almost putting Sunderland into the lead after a neat turn and shot stuck the post. Farrugia again came close for the lasses when she picked the ball up from 25 yards out but Nina Wilson pulled off a fine save.
The Blades then took over and after a succession of corners, Sophie Bradley-Auckland rose highest to score with a free header.
However, the Lasses pulled level almost instantly when a nice team move saw Abbey Joice play in Emily Scarr. Scarr judged the bounce of the ball beautifully to guide the ball into the corner of the net.
Sheffield United then almost retook the lead but Claudia Moan stood strong to deny Courtney Sweetman Kirk from close range.
The Blades pushed for a goal but it was Sunderland who would strike next. Farrugia forced the defence into making a mistake and Scarr broke away and finished superbly to put us 2 1 up. Sheffield's misery was compounded when Bradley-Aucklands afternoon was ended by injury just before half time.
The second half was barely five minutes old when Sunderland scored again. Neve Herron defended superbly and broke away with the ball and sent an inch-perfect ball for Farrugia to outpace the Sheffield defence and lob Wilson to make it 1-3. It was the Maltese International forward’s first goal of the season and a well-deserved one.
This sparked a barrage of pressure from United, including a tremendous clearance onto her own bar from Mullen to deny a certain goal from Lucy Watson.
Sweetman Kirk then really should have scored for Sheffield but fluffed her lines when clean through on goal. Moan then made her second big save of the day to deny Watson, superbly tipping a goalbound effort wide of the post.
Mel Reay made two changes with Jessica Brown, Grace Ede, and Eve Blakey coming on for Manders, Scarr, and Farrugia to provide the lasses with much needed fresh legs and this proved to be crucial when Ede turned and curled a lovely effort that was saved by Wilson but Emma Kelly was on hand to tuck the rebound away.
Ede nearly provided a fifth and a pitch invasion but shot over after great work by Brown in the dying minutes. Sunderland finished the game strongly and the three points were well deserved.
A huge congratulations to the players and coaching staff for ensuring another season in the second tier. Hawaaaayyyy the lasses.
Mission Accomplished!!!— Roker Report (@RokerReport) March 20, 2022
With the 1-4 win at Sheffield United today, @SAFCLadies have achieved the goal this season - surviving in the @FAWomensChamp
Fantastic work everyone - Mel & Steph, the players, partners, parents, fans!
The future’s bright#HawayTheLasses | #SAFC ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/W5vPSGeuyW
Claudia Moan - 8/10
The keeper made two massively important saves at crucial times yesterday. Top work again.
Megan Beer - 7/10
Always dependable and she really grew into the game on her return to action.
Grace McCatty - 7/10
The experienced stopper kept the lethal duo of Sweetman-Kirk and Watson quiet today with some terrific marshaling of the defence.
Abby Towers - 7/10
I keep saying this but what a signing she has been. Towers plays like an experienced centre half but she’s only 17 and kept Sheffield’s attack in her pocket.
Faye Mullen - 7/10
Sheffield targeted her but Faye stood up strong. Great clearance onto the bar in the 2nd half.
Neve Herron - 7/10
By Herron’s own high standards she was quiet today, but defended brilliantly and supplied a beautiful ball for the third goal - and a true fighter as well.
Abbey Joice - 7/10
Typical Joice, she ran her socks off and set up Scarr for Sunderland's first goal.
Emma Kelly - 7/10
Led the lasses well in Ramshaws absence and scored a well deserved goal. Neat and tidy in midfield.
Emily Scarr - 9/10
Followed up last week's confident display with two expert finishes. Scarr frightened the life out of the opposition’s defence with her pace.
Holly Manders - 7/10
A solid game for Holly Manders on the wing, she had some deft touches and worked hard defensively to help Mullen.
Maria Farrugia - 9/10
Scored one and could have had a hattrick with better luck. This was comfortably her best game this season and she absolutely destroyed the Sheffield United backline.
Jess Brown - 7/10
Replaced Scarr out wide and put some lovely balls into the box late on.
Grace Ede - 7/10
Replaced Manders and set the fourth goal up with a great effort, then she almost got her first goal for the team late on too. A real talent.
Eve Blakey - 7/10
Replaced Farrugia and gave Sunderland much-needed height as a target up top late on.
Player of the Match - Maria Farrugia
Absolutely superb from both Maria Farrugia and Emily Scarr today but Maria just edges it as this was the best I’ve seen her today. A brilliantly taken goal and it could have been even better for the Maltese international. Did not give the Sheffield defenders a moment's peace all day.