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Lasses Match Preview: The last game of the 21/22 FA Women’s Championship season - Ha’way The Lasses!

Sunderland return home to Eppleton Colliery for their final game of the FA Women’s Championship season. Go out on a high or play the youths? We’ve everything you need to know ahead of kickoff including an in-depth scouting report from Charlotte Patterson

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

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Sunderland AFC Women v Bristol City Women

FA Women’s Championship - 2pm Kick off

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


Tickets & Match Coverage

Tickets: Tickets are priced at £5 for adults and £2.50 for concessions, with offers including FREE entry for under-14s. This match is included with all Sunderland AFC Season Cards.

Coverage: The game will be streamed live on the SAFC YouTube channel, and BBC Radio Newcastle will be providing commentary alongside the Durham & Newcastle games.

There will be 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. Children can travel to the game on the bus for free.

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

Podcast: The Lasses Podcast Live will be on Tuesday night, 8.30-9.30pm, including an exclusive interview with SAFC Women’s General Manager, Alex Clark.


The Build-Up...

It’s the final game of the season and the Lasses are playing their final league game at home to see the 21/22 FA Women’s Championship season out. After a disappointing 3-0 loss in the River Wear Derby last weekend, Sunderland will be looking to finish the season on a high against Bristol.

The Lasses weren’t particularly at their best last Sunday against Durham. Whilst undoubtedly Durham were the better side and appeared to want it more, Sunderland did fail to capitalise on the small chances they had, something I would imagine that gaffer Mel Reay and her team have looked to rectify in training this week.

Sunderland secured their place in the Championship a few weeks ago, so they can play without pressure and the freedom to be more creative and experimental as the season draws to a close.

Whilst I do feel that the gaffer will look to incorporate youth into the team, perhaps including Grace Ede and Katy Watson, I am also confident that the team will go into this fixture with the same determination and mentality they show every game.

Bristol City on the other hand will be playing for pride, a runners up place, and perhaps a statement of intent to the rest of the league. This was the Robins first season in the FA Women’s Championship following relegation from the Women’s Super League last year. Instead of resting on their laurels, the side have gone into every fixture with the belief they can win, playing some wonderful attacking football, but were unfortunately outdone by a rampant Liverpool team.

London City Lionesses sit in second place with 38 points, whereas Bristol sit in thirrd with 36 points. A win for Bristol and either a draw or loss for London City against Blackburn will see the Robins finish second in the league (depending on GD)


The Lasses Build-up...

Despite the lacklustre performance by the Lasses own standards last weekend, they will no doubt be heading into this game with the full belief they can get something from it. Whilst on paper, Bristol are a top side and one of the most offensive in the league, if Sunderland can play their game right, similarly to how they did against Sheffield, then they may well be able to cause an upset.

During the week, several Sunderland players were in action for Gateshead College in the Premier Cup final. Mel Reay led the side, which saw Neve Herron (Captain), Grace Boyes, Jessica Brown, Eve Blakey and Libbi McInnes feature in their 2-1 win to lift the English Schools and College Cup competition.

Perhaps this win will spur some of those aforementioned players on. Having had that taste for victory and basking in their success could well lead to some increased confidence heading into this fixture against Bristol. It’s also something that could be infectious to the rest of the team.

With home advantage and wanting to finish the season on a high, the lasses will have no doubt been working hard all of this week to learn from their mistakes. We made only 225 passes against Durham with only 50% passing accuracy, one of the lowest metrics the entire season (the other coming against Liverpool at the start of the year). Sunderland had six shots all game as well, with only two on target, both of them failing to challenge the keeper.

Despite the 3-0 loss to Durham, it could have been a lot more if not for the tremendous heroics of Claudia Moan. She pulled off some fantastic saves during the game to keep Sunderland in it, including a spectacular fingertip save to push Beth Hepple’s shot over the bar in the final moments of the game.

Grace Ede and Katy Watson came on in the game with 25 minutes left and played with great determination and fire to make a difference. Despite their young ages and inexperience at this level, the two have not looked out of place when coming on and it would be fantastic to see them either start or get some more minutes this weekend.


Scout Report: The Robins...

Bristol City currently sit third in the league, thirteen points ahead of Sunderland. They head into this fixture after losing their last game 1-3 at home to London City Lionesses. The Robins have only won once in their last five fixtures, with that win coming against Watford back in March.

Bristol City have the joint 5th best defensive record in the league, conceding 26 goals in 21 games. They also have the second best offensive record in the league, scoring 41. They currently sit with a + 15 goal difference.

The Robins mainly adopt a 4-1-4-1 formation, using it for 34% of the season. However, they do occasionally play with a 4-2-3-1. In their game against London City Lionesses last weekend, Bristol did start with a 4-1-4-1, but changed to a 3-4-2-1 in the last 15 minutes. Likely an attempt to get back into the game and reduce the deficit by going with an all out attack.

In terms of playing style, Bristol generally like to keep possession and play a passing game, averaging around 352 passes per game, with a success rate of 71%. They also average 92 recoveries per game and 49% possession.

The clips of Bristol that I have watched confirm that they like to play a passing game. They’re happy to take their time in getting forward and building up the play from the back and midfield. They wait for an opportunity to present itself by luring opposition players out of their position with their passing. It’s then that Bristol like to play intricate one twos in the space, before surging forward. A lot of their play is on the ground, but that is by no means Bristol's only method of attacking.

Abi Harrison is the danger and target upfront. With great strength and pace, Harrison is the league's top goal scorer for a reason. With 17 goals under her belt so far, the Scottish international is a natural goal poacher and reads the game well to find herself space to run in to between the defensive backline.

Whilst happy to play the passing game, Bristol will look to go forward with long balls over the top of the backline for Harrison to run on to. A physical player, Harrison can easily shrug off defenders whilst making her charge towards goal and in a one on one situation, you would have to side with Harrison coming out on top everytime.

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. This mainly comes in the form of Bristol City left back, Lia Cataldo, who is highly skilled and easily skims past players, whilst stepping out of tackles and looking to bomb forward. She links up well with Aggie Beever-Jones who occasionally plays on the left wing and the two of them can run rampant along the left-hand side, something Sunderland will need to be wary of.

In terms of weaknesses, I would say that Bristol are susceptible to playing to high up or getting caught up the pitch, meaning when they are disposed it provides the perfect opportunity to play in a through ball. Perfect for the likes of Neve Herron’s pinpoint passing and Emily Scarr’s pace.

I hate pinpointing specific players as being weaknesses, but from the clips and highlights I have watched of Bristol's games, their centre-back, Satara Murray, seems to be a weak link at the back.

She is regularly getting caught out coming too far forward to press players, leaving a large gap for opposition players to expose, and when she has been caught out of position, she has struggled to get back to rectify her mistake - something which Scarr could make the most of.

Bristol are also quite weak on set pieces, failing to mark on freekicks (or throw-ins for that matter). The Lasses should aim to make the most of their set-pieces, particularly on freekicks and make a run towards the back post to catch them off guard.

In Bristol’s 4-2 loss to Liverpool, three of the goals were conceded from set pieces. Two coming from throw-ins and one coming from a freekick. They also conceded from a freekick against Sheffield a few weeks ago too.

The Robins can be guilty of playing the passing game too much and trying to be too cute at the back. Instead of trying to clear the danger with a lofted ball up the field, they can try to play it out from the back whilst under pressure, which has led to goals being directly scored from these errors.

It would be well worth the Sunderland forwards using their pace and tenacity to close the defenders down on the ball to try and force a mistake. Bristol lose the ball on average 142 times per game.


Recent League Form...

Sunderland: LWWDL

Bristol City: WLLDL


Head to head...

(All venues, all competitions, including friendlies)

Played - 6

Sunderland Wins - 4

Draws - 0

Bristol City Wins - 2

Sunderland Goals - 11

Bristol City Goals - 7


Last time out...

Bristol City Women 2 - 1 Sunderland Ladies

Sunday 3rd October 2021, Robins High Performance Centre, Bristol

Melissa Johnson ‘58 Charlotte Potts ‘84

Aimee Palmer ‘64


One to watch... Aggie Beever-Jones!

Aggie Beever-Jones - 18 years old and on loan from parent club Chelsea WFC, Beever-Jones has taken to life in the FA Women’s Championship incredibly well. With 17 appearances and 5 goals and 2 assists for Bristol, she has become one of the first names on the team sheet alongside league top scorer Abi Harrison and forming a great partnership at times.

She boasts an array of impressive statistics this season. Averaging 69 total actions per game, 2.56 shots, 23.4 passes, 7.72 dribbles, 30.58 duels, 4 recoveries and 5.9 interceptions.

Wyscout

Never one to shy away from hard work, you can see from the heatmap above that she likes to get heavily involved in the game. Predominantly playing on either the left or right wing. Bristol City’s style of play suits her, being possession and passing orientated, and it has allowed Aggie to develop her skills and dribbling abilities.

You will regularly see footage of her controlling the ball out on the wing and looking to beat the opposing player. She plays with great finesse and confidence in herself. Regardless of who she is coming up against, she will use her trickery and technical skills to dribble past the player before cutting inside and either going on a solo run towards the goal or looking to play in a teammate.

With relentless energy, pace and skill, Aggie has been a huge coup for Bristol this season, who will ultimately be sad to see her go at the end of the season.

Beever-Jones has also been outstanding at international level for England. Recently in a U19 Euros qualifying match against Belgium, Aggie bagged herself a hattrick in 14 minutes, ensuring her side came away as 3-0 victors and helping England U19’s secure their place at the U19 Euros Championship.


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