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Lasses Match Preview: Sunderland take on Coventry United at Eppleton today - Ha’way the Lasses!

We’ve got everything you need to know before heading down to the Hetton Centre for this afternoon’s game for the Lasses’ penultimate home match of the season.

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

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Sunday 3rd April 2021

Sunderland AFC Ladies v Coventry United Ladies

FA Women’s Championship - 2pm Kick off

Eppleton Colliery Welfare - The Hetton Centre, Welfare Rd, Hetton-le-Hole, Houghton le Spring DH5 9NA


Tickets: Tickets are £5 for adults, £2.50 for Over 65’s, £2.50 for Under 16’s and free for Stadium of Light Season Ticket Holders and Under 14’s.

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

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

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, 8.30-9.30pm.


Build-up

Sunderland head into this fixture on the high of two consecutive victories, the first time this season they have won two back to back. We’ve touched on it numerous times, but we cannot downplay the difference in this Sunderland side since the turn of the new year. Performances have been fantastic, with the lasses giving their all each game and fighting for the badge. It took some time, but those empathic displays and determination are finally bearing fruit in terms of collecting wins and points before the end of the season.

With nothing to play for, the lasses could be forgiven for experimenting with different formations, tactics, and introducing players with limited minutes and experiences. However, my impression of gaffer Mel Reay and her team is that they want to finish as strongly as possible, hopefully carrying their spirit, tenacity and confidence into the next season.

Sunderland Ladies v Liverpool Women - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Nigel Roddis - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Captain Keira Ramshaw was out with COVID-19 last week and it is unclear what, if any, effects it has left her with in terms of condition and fitness. Whereas Emily Scarr was subbed off not long after the first whistle last week with a head injury. We know that concussion protocols are strongly adhered to meaning she will be ruled out for this game.

It is also unclear as to whether Grace Ede will be back in the team, following on from international duties with the England U17 team. Their last game came on Wednesday, meaning she should be back on native shores, but the question remains as to whether Mel chooses to rest her or include her in the matchday squad.

But as well as Sunderland heading into this fixture full of confidence and pride, the same can be said about Coventry United. Undefeated in four and winning two and drawing two in their last five.

Coventry do have something to fight for - survival. The game is set to be an intense and evenly contested match between two sides full of confidence and wanting to extend their good form.


The Lasses

Despite the relatively slow start in the game against Watford last week, the lasses managed to kick into gear in the second half. Likely after some good stern encouragement in the changing rooms at half time from the gaffer.

Whatever was said, worked. Just minutes after the whistle went for the second half, Sunderland got to work and began to press the Watford backline. It wasn’t long before their persistence in attack reaped reward, as in the 66th minute Maria Farrugia saw her shot parried away, but only to fall fortuitously for Katy Watson to strike first time to score her first goal for Sunderland.

Then just moments later, Emma Kelly whipped a fantastic corner towards the edge of the penalty box for Neve Herron to head home. There was a big improvement in Sunderland’s attack and ability to test the keeper, but unfortunately, they weren’t able to capitalise on those chances.

Just before the game ended Watford got a goal back from a corner, in what was quite a poor goal to concede, particularly as keeper Claudia Moan mistimed her punch on the ball. But Sunderland were the clear and deserved winners and they continue this good run of form.

Sunderland adopted their 4-4-1-1 formation for the fourth consecutive game, which appears to be working well. The statistics back that up, with Sunderland having more possession and passing more (approx 100 passes more) than they were when using other formations. Our passing accuracy has also improved roughly between 9-15% in the last four games.

Undoubtedly the change of personnel in certain positions is also supporting the lasses. With Abby Towers coming into the team and being fantastic at centre-back, it has allowed Neve Herron to move back into her natural position in the midfield, allowing us to add more strength in attack and give Herron the chance to showcase her abilities on the ball higher up the pitch.


The Opponents

Coventry United currently sit 12th in the league, 18 points behind Sunderland. This follows the club being deducted 10 points in January 2022. They head into this fixture winning their last game in a victory at home to Blackburn Rovers.

Coventry are undefeated in four fixtures, winning two and drawing two. United have the fourth-worst defensive record in the league, conceding 31 goals in 18 games. They also have the joint second-worst offensive record in the league, scoring 15. They currently sit with a –16 goal difference.

But, despite this, the statistics don’t reflect or illustrate the way Coventry are playing. Almost similarly to Sunderland at the start of the year, they were performing well and showcasing some spirited performances, but ultimately not coming away with the deserved points.

However, in the last few fixtures, Coventry have turned so emphatic performances into points, points which prove vital as the season draws to a close and the side fight to stay in the Championship. That determination, strength, fight and confidence alone, means the lasses should not head into this game thinking it will be an easy three points.

Arsenal Women v Coventry United Ladies: Vitality Women’s FA Cup Quarter Final
Freya Thomas of Coventry United battles for possession with Caitlin Foord of Arsenal
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Coventry have also experimented with various formations throughout the season, not adopting one as their primary. They have varied from using a 4-1-4-1, 3-5-2, 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. This gives Coventry an slight edge in the game due to their unpredictable formation and tactics.

However, they do tend to play with the same formation they started with, for the duration of the game. In their last two fixtures at home to Blackburn in the League and away to Arsenal in the Cup they have adopted a 3-5-2

In terms of playing style, Coventry generally like to keep possession and play a passing game, averaging around 288 passes per game, with a success rate of 66.7%. They also average 82 recoveries per game and 44% possession.

From the highlights I saw, United like to play a passing game and then try to get the ball out the wings. Occasionally you will see the wing-backs overlap down the wings as they attempt to add pressure and presence going forward, so Sunderland will need to be wary of the wing-backs making deep runs in behind their back line.

Coventry are quite a fast team on the transition to attack, especially when countering. They get forward in numbers and have some pacy wingers and forwards such as Olivia Ferguson, who can definitely beat a Lasses backline if they aren’t careful enough. United also average around nine shots on goal per game. The only saving grace is that their accuracy isn’t always the best.

Coventry also appear to be quite good on set pieces, particularly on corners and crosses into the box, with a good number of goals coming from headers or first-time shots from them.

Arsenal Women v Coventry United: Vitality Women’s FA Cup Quarter Final
Katy Morris of Coventry United
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

In terms of weaknesses, Coventry are quite slow when be countered, contrary to how they are when in possession. Some of the clips and highlights I watched, showed the side struggling to get back when the opposition were on the ball and running towards goal.

It would ideal if the lasses play the passing game just in front of the defence to lure the players out of possession, as they will come forward to close them down, leaving behind a gap for Sunderland to play into.

Especially with how Abbey Joice has been performing recently and the pinpoint precision with some of her threw balls. Ideally though, if Sunderland can play like they did last week, using their pace and long balls over the top, I feel that Coventry will have a difficult game when being attacked and may well struggle with the pressure, if that is how Sunderland are to play.

However, that also leaves us open and vulnerable to their attack and countering abilities. It is unclear whether or not Emily Scarr will be back for this fixture, following her head injury the other week. But her pace, along with Farrugia’s can certainly be a positive piece in our attacking repertoire. If Neve Herron is on form with her long passes out from the back or in midfield as they provide an opportunity for our forwards to run onto the ball as it is expertly lifted over the opposition backline.


Recent League Form

Sunderland: LWLWW

Coventry United: LDWDW


Head to head...

(All venues, all competitions, including friendlies)

Played - 1

Sunderland Wins - 1

Draws - 0

Coventry Wins - 0

Sunderland Goals - 1

Coventry Goals - 0


Last time out...

Coventry United Ladies 0-1 Sunderland Ladies

Jess Brown ‘60

Sunday 29th August 2021, Butts Park Arena, Coventry


One to Watch... Lucy Thomas

United’s goalkeeper, Lucy Thomas has been fantastic for the side despite the goals conceded and position in the league. She has undoubtedly kept her team in it with some vital saves to ensure Coventry come away with all three points or the draw. Thomas has great vision and reaction speed, seeing the potential situations developing prior to happening, allowing her to get in a good position and organise the defence.

For someone who is only 22 year old, she exudes confidence and it will take a strong and fierce shot by the lasses to get one past her. between Thomas and their other goalkeeper Olivia Clarke, who have both played almost an equal amount of games. 9 and 10 respectively, they have good cover at the back.

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