Note to self: when next visiting the Maiden Castle ground, bring a box to stand on. It was fantastic to see so many in attendance but with the pitch being encircled by a running track and nowhere for fans to go, the view was not ideal.
That said, one doesn’t need much of a view to witness the magnificence of this Sunderland side.
Something special is happening this season and we’re loving every second of it. Had you told any of us at the end of our last season we would go on such a successful campaign combined with a massive increase in team unity, we would have laughed bitterly in disbelief.
The match started slow with Sunderland’s new backline of Grace Ede, Brianna Westrup, Natasha Fenton and Megan Beer slotting in for injuries from Amy Goddard and Louise Griffiths. Claudia Moan - who normally spends more time outside her box than in it - played a more defensive position this game to accommodate the changes.
Durham controlled the opening 20 minutes and took advantage of this with several shots being sent into the Lasses goal area. They were promptly swatted away like flies with a dismissive poise from the best keeper in the league, including a particularly dangerous header from Poppy Pritchard. Durham could not breach our walls, though.
Following this, the Lasses turned the game in their favour and comfortably controlled the rest of the first half. Several good chances were made by our frontline with Liz Ejupi part of some wonderful build up play with a shot that just went wide across the face of goal.
With the first half going into added time, Katie Kitching pulled off a wonderful free kick that curled over Durham’s walls and breached the top corner. Magnificent piece of skill and she just gets better with each game.
The second half continued the first’s theme of Sunderland pressure with good chances from Ejupi, Dear and Kitching again. Dear’s strike in particular was an absolute thunder-bastard and just went over the crossbar. Rumour has it it’s still travelling across the North East as a replacement bus-service.
The final ten minutes of regular time however did start to tell on our players. Durham showed some spirit, perhaps attempt to stop their fans’ off-key chanting and drum-banging by scoring a goal and hoping for applause instead. It did not come.
Claudia Moan was called into action once more, like Achilles on the fields of Troy, weary but stalwart, she pulled off a spectacular save to keep the Lasses in sight of victory.
Play was interrupted for a time by an unfortunate and serious injury to Jenna Dear who appears to have landed badly after a strong challenge.
The Lasses saw out the remaining minutes with the referees’ whistle blowing full time, and to the victors lay the spoils.
Sunderland go again this week in the Conti Cup against the same opposition but at home. On Sunday they play Blackburn in the league.
Haway the Lasses!