Sunderland's superb second-half performance saw them see off Watford in a 2-1 victory in front of over 500 fans at Eppleton CW on Sunday lunchtime.
Mel Reay named an unchanged side from last week's win over Sheffield United, with Keira Ramshaw and Louise Griffiths returning the bench after illness and suspension respectively.
The game started on a sour note for the lasses when, after just five seconds, Emily Scarr was involved in a horrible clash of heads that left Scarr in a lot of discomfort. She managed to get to her feet but was visibly hurt and had to be helped off the pitch. She was replaced by Jessica Brown, who came on to play in her natural position on the right wing for the first time in a while.
Sunderland's players did seem visibly affected by Scarr’s injury, but eventually, they settled into a rhythm with Watford offering very little going forward and the Lasses dominating possession, controlling play from the back.
Our first real chance of the game came when Brown found Maria Farrugia on the wing. The Maltese striker turned, cut inside, and fired in a curling shot but it was well dealt with by Ferguson in the Watford goal.
Watford tried a couple of counterattacks but Sunderland’s centre halves were more than able to deal with them as the first half petered out, with Towers leaving a Hornets forward sprawling as she dispossessed her.
In the second half, it was all pressure by Sunderland as they looked to get more bodies further forward. In one notable attack, Farrugia did brilliantly to force a mistake out the Watford defence with a mazy dribble, but ran out of pitch and with no assistance had to settle for a corner.
Mel Reay then shuffled the pack and brought on Louise Griffiths and Katy Watson for Brown and Holly Manders, and the substitutions worked a treat as Watson got her first-ever goal for the Lasses senior side in the 66th minute.
Maria Farrugia got some space to turn and shoot and Ferguson could only palm the ball away to Watson who cooly slotted the ball home. We hope that will be the first of many for the 16-year-old RTC graduate.
Things got even better for Sunderland just two minutes later when Neve Herron headed home superbly from a terrific corner delivery from Emma Kelly. Herron celebrated Mother’s Day by showing a heart symbol to her family in the crowd - a class act.
These two goals brought out more freedom in Sunderland, and Farrugia had two terrific chances to seal it. The first she fired wide after a lovely run and the second was superbly cleared off the line. Herron almost repeated her goal with a similar header that was saved.
Watford scored a consolation goal in stoppage time as a corner was somehow met by Legg, but it was too late for them to get back into the game. The Lasses saw the time out though for a second win in as many games, which will give them confidence ahead of a big game next Sunday against bottom side Coventry United, who are still hopeful of catching Watford and escaping the drop.
Another top performance from @SAFCLadies in the @FAWomensChamp this afternoon! Congrats to Katy Watson on scoring her first senior goal and thank you to the 500 supporters who came along to support the Lasses! #SAFCLadies #HawaytheLasses #FAWC pic.twitter.com/lxcP7hCf1g— Chris Fryatt (@ChrisFryatt) March 27, 2022
Claudia Moan - 6/10
Really didn’t have much to do. She missed the punch that led to their late goal, but her kicking was again good though.
Megan Beer - 7/10
Was slightly wasteful with her passing first half but grew into the game. Much better second half.
Grace McCatty - 7/10
Had the Watford striker in her back pocket all afternoon.
Abby Towers - 7/10
Lived up to her “wall” nickname by stopping Watford from coming in. She is a great natural footballer.
Faye Mullen - 6/10
Solid all game and tried to get forward as much as possible.
Neve Herron - 8/10
Quiet first half but played a massive part in pushing Sunderland on it the second. Great header from her goal and a touch of class in her celebration.
Abbey Joice - 7/10
Not able to get forward as much in the first half but another to really kick on in the second.
Emma Kelly - 8/10
Cultured and battling display from the captain. Is a huge vocal presence as well. Best game for the club.
Emily Scarr - n/a
She was injured in the seconds into the game and had to come off with a concussion. We wish her all the best.
Holly Manders - 7/10
Tried to get Sunderland going in the first half when they struggled, she showed some touches of great skill.
Maria Farrugia - 9/10
Comfortably the best player on the pitch. She never gave up running and forced Watford defenders into mistakes. Struck a lovely effort that led to the first goal and deserved a goal of her own, a finish was the only thing missing from her performance.
Jess Brown - 6/10
Called into action in the first minute as a concussion sub, she gave save it her all as always but her passing was off. She will bounce back.
Katy Watson - 7/10
What a moment for the youngster to score her first Lasses goal. Took it well and her pace changed the game for us. Congratulations, Katy.
Louise Griffiths 7/10
Showed a versatile side to her game by playing left wing.
Eve Blakey 6/10
Held the ball up well to preserve Sunderland's lead.
Keira Ramshaw 6/10
Her experience helped take the sting out of the game. Great to see her back.
Libbi Mciness 6/10
Another player to help when legs were tired. She showed some nice touches, and one to watch for the future.
Player of the Match - Maria Farrugia
For the second successive week, Farrugia takes the honours. Had she managed to get a goal it would have been a 10 mark. Maria did not give Watford's backline a moment's peace and is starting to flourish in the lone striker role.