It’s derby day once again, folks, as Sunderland Women entertain Durham at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare ground today (DH5 9NA), and a good crowd is expected as we try and get the first victory over Durham since we returned to the Championship.
Last year Durham did the double over us in what was firstly a hard-fought game at Eppleton, with Sunderland suffering after a Charlotte Potts injury forced us into making a formation change. The game at Maiden Castle... well, the less said about that the better.
However, this season's curtain raiser at Durham was a tremendous game and a hard-fought affair, where Sunderland more than matched their opponents and could have easily got more than the one point they left with.
For me, Sunderland need to get at Durham early - the key to beating them won’t be in starting patiently, but through putting them on the back foot immediately. They’re a strong, physical side who can also play great football. It’s a good trait to have.
Sunderland this season have improved tremendously as the back.
New singings Abby Holmes and Bri Westrup have been instrumental in forming a solid backline. Holmes is a class act. A wrecking ball kind of player who takes no prisoners.
We really missed that last season, and it was no surprise she was the best player against her former side in the reverse fixture at Durham.
For all of Durham's strengths, I feel we can get at them with pace. Emily Scarr and Katy Watson have blistering speed. Scarr has turned into quite the centre forward, and we also have new signing Liz Ejupki who, funnily enough, just signed from Durham. Liz will be absolutely desperate to play on Sunday and will want to show her former club what she is capable of - she could well be Sunderland's secret weapon.
The game, I feel, will be won or lost in midfield. Sunderland must win that battle.
A battle between Neve Herron and Sarah Robson could be mouthwatering, and the young Sunderland star will relish the physical challenge on Sunday.
Both sides have had tough seasons - Sunderland still lie second bottom of the table, and despite a healthy points lead over Coventry at the foot of the table, they will want to progress further up the standings. Meanwhile, Durham have also seen an improvement recently on the pitch, with two Conti Cup wins over WSL opposition and some improved league form standing them in good stead ahead of today’s derby clash.
This game promises so much, and a real derby atmosphere is promised.
Both sides will be desperate to get one over on each other.
Let’s hope the team celebrating today is wearing red and white!
Get your tickets and strap yourselves in folks - it’s gonna be great.