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Sunderland v Blackburn - Barclays FA Women’s Championship

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Lasses Preview: Can top of the league Sunderland Women keep it up against struggling Blackburn?

Sunderland have a great opportunity to extend their unbeaten run to ten games on the bounce in the league this afternoon against a struggling Blackburn side. We have an in-depth look at both sides ahead of this match.

Photo by Nigel Roddis - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

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Sunday 12th November 2023

Sunderland AFC Women v Blackburn Rovers Women

FA Women’s Championship

Eppleton CW Ground, Hetton-le-Hole, Sunderland

Kick-Off: 11:30am

Tickets & Match Coverage

Tickets: Tickets: £10 for adults, £7.50 for Over 65’s, £5 for U16’s and students

Travel: Take the number 55 bus from Sunderland Interchange (Stand K) to Houghton Road-Caroline Street, Hetton. Plan your journey by public transport at Traveline North East. More information, including parking details, is available on the SAFC website here.

Coverage: The game will be broadcast live on Twitter via @SAFCWomen. Updates will be provided on Twitter via @SAFCWomen, and we will be sharing photos, videos and comments on the game via our @HawayPod Twitter account.

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

The Lasses

After facing Durham Women in both the league and the cup, it’s nice to be able to welcome a different team to Eppleton today.

The lasses are back in league action and looking to make it ten consecutive games unbeaten in the league with their form and confidence hitting an all time high as they still sit top of the Championship table.

Teamwork makes the dream work and that is certainly the cheesy mantra being adhered to by Mel Reay’s squad. The cohesion, intelligence, grit and almost telepathic reading between players is marvellous to witness, or worrying depending on your fandom. As with each passing game more players are adding their names to the goal scorer tally and giving Mel a selection headache as they showcase their plethora of skills and abilities.

During the week, we saw Sunderland take on Durham in the Conti Cup and make eight changes to the starting line-up, giving the likes of 18-year-old Katy Watson, 18-year-old Grace Ede, 19-year-old Libbi McInnes, 19-year-old Mary Corbyn and 20-year-old Jessica Brown the nod to start the fixture. Whilst 16-year-old Ella West came on at half time to slot in at centre back for her senior debut and 16-year-old Eve Parker was on the bench.

It was a glorious and proud moment for all involved and all who have supported, encouraged, taught, coached and nurtured their progress to reach this point. The future is definitely bright for Sunderland.

With the changed line-up, it was clear that the league is garnering the majority of Mel’s focus and attention, giving frequent starters and regulars a break before today’s game to have them in the best possible condition to maintain this excellent run.

Last Sunday we heard the news of centre-back Amy Goddard being ruled out of the match with a foot injury and the hope of many fans is that she will be back and fit enough for today’s game. The 6ft tall defender as been a fantastic acquisition for Sunderland since joining in the Summer and has firmly solidified her place in the backline with her innate ability to win aerial duels, tackles and intercept loose balls. Whereas left-back Louise Griffiths may well return to the fray after being up what looked to be a hamstring injury away against Lewes a few weeks ago, but was on Sunderland's bench on Sunday. Meanwhile, midfielder Jenna Dear was forced off with injury last Sunday as she landed heavily on her arm during the Durham game and was seen sporting a sling on Wednesday night.

It’ll be interesting to see just what changes the gaffer makes after so many players illustrated their technical adroitness and determination. It’s certainly a positive problem for Mel Reay and her team to have.

Sunderland v Durham - FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The Opposition

Blackburn currently sit 6th in the league and nine points behind Sunderland. Rovers have conceded 13 goals in nine games and they also have the second-worst offensive record in the league, only scoring seven in nine games. So can the lasses exploit that backline and illustrate another inspired performance in what is a winnable fixture on paper. But it’s important to not get ahead of ourselves and retain our composure.

Rovers have also deployed numerous variations of formations throughout the season, from 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 and 4-4-1-1 with the former being the most primary used. Statistically 28% of the time. Blackburn generally stick to the formation they start with.

In terms of playing style, Rovers generally like to keep possession and play a passing game However, they do tend to lose the ball regularly during the game which has led to them conceding. From the highlights I saw, Rovers like to play down the wings and look to catch the opposition out with through balls in between the backline or balls over the top and into space for forwards to run onto.

When they are countering, they have at least four or five players join on the attack which the lasses will need to be wary of — particularly given the speed of some of their players. Despite playing a passing game, Blackburn like to cross deep into the box from the wings or when moving forward.

In terms of weaknesses, set pieces are a big one. I watched countless clips on Wyscout of the goals they have conceded both this season and last season, with a large proportion of them come from corners and/or freekicks. Primarily corners. They aren’t able to keep their defensive shape and line, failing to mark open players or follow a runner which is very very positive news to hear for Sunderland fans given we have scored eight goals from set pieces this season. Blackburn are also susceptible to getting caught too far forward, meaning if a counter-attacking opportunity presents itself, the players find it difficult to get back.

But we cannot be complacent. Despite the form Blackburn find themselves in, I have no doubt that the team will be taking this fixture as serious as all of their others, as we know just how competitive this league is this season and that anyone can beat anybody. Forward Megan Hornby will certainly have to be one the Lasses watch. The 23-year-old always looks dangerous when she is on the ball and has two goals and three assists for Rovers.

Durham Women v Blackburn Rovers - FA Women’s League Cup Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Head to Head

(All venues, all competitions, including friendlies)

Sunderland wins: 7

Draws: 0

Blackburn Rovers wins: 5

Sunderland goals: 20

Blackburn Rovers goals: 10

Recent League Form

Sunderland: WWWDW

Blackburn: LLLLW

Last Time Out

Sunday 30th April 2023 - Sunderland Women 0-1 Blackburn Rovers Women

Megan Hornby 20’

Played for both

Natasha Fenton

The 24-year-old wore the captain’s armband last season as the side achieved their best points tally at this level. She made 221 appearances in total and scored 24 goals during her time at the club. She joined the club’s centre of excellence at the age of 13 and progressed through the ranks under long-serving manager Gemma Donnelly.

The midfielder made her first-team debut at 16 and went on to become an important member of the squad. She won three consecutive National League North titles between 2017 and 2019.

Fenton also helped Rovers clinch promotion to the Championship following a 3-0 play-off victory against Coventry United.

Durham v Sunderland - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Stu Forster - The FA/The FA via Getty Images


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