Roker Report: The two teams played each other in the league this past weekend, with Sunderland coming out on top with a 1-0 win.
What did you make of Durham’s performance?
Mark Padden: I thought we played very well.
I was worried that we’d struggle against Sunderland's rapid counters and Liz Ejupi’s ability to read the game, but we handled it well and controlled the game in the first half.
It was more open in the second half, with both keepers tested.
RR: What do you think Sunderland did well? What gave them that edge?
MP: Defensively, they were excellent.
I’ve always rated Claudia Moan and she more than lived up to expectations. Every time I see her play, she gets better and better.
Whenever Durham ventured forward, there were two or three players around them in seconds. Keeping the unbeaten run going doubtless spurred them on, too.
I have to say that despite not being as ruthless as they’ve been this season, Sunderland are one of the best sides I’ve seen at Maiden Castle so far.
RR: The Conti Cup isn’t particularly highly regarded by quite a few football fans, so how do you think Durham will approach this game? What tactics may or will change?
MP: It’s one of those cups you could take or leave.
A cup run and silverware is always great, but the format isn’t the best and leads to fixture congestion. We normally use it for younger players to get a chance, but with this being a derby, who knows, especially coming straight after Sunday.
We’re in a wide open group and it’s easily the best chance either side has had to qualify in years.
Of course we’ll be going for the win, but we’ve shown in the past what we can do in shootouts (just ask Manchester Utd!)
RR: Will they field a more younger or inexperienced side in order to give some players a rest and focus more on the league?
MP: Normally I’d say yes, but it’s a derby so I’m expecting a similar line up to Sunday, and depending on the score, for us to possibly give the likes of Erin Nicholson and Ella Wilson some minutes.
It’s the perfect game for Beth Hepple to return to the starting XI too, but the question is who drops out.
RR: If Durham do field some youth prospects or ‘lesser known’ names, who would you like to see given a chance to shine and who do you think we could see?
MP: Nicholson and Wilson will he the obvious two.
Both are growing in confidence and had great games last time out against Blackburn. They’ll both feature at some point and I’d like to see Anna King get some game time, too.
She’s been impressive for Cestria this season and has deservedly earned a first team place this season. I’ve no doubt she’ll be involved at some point in this competition.
RR: It’s always tough to give a score prediction, especially so soon after both teams last played, but how do you see this game panning out?
MP: This is a lot harder to call than Sunday.
The teams could be the same or they could be completely different. Durham may stick, Sunderland might change, and vice-versa.
Sunday showed how open the game is, so on that, I’m going 1-1, with Durham just edging what would be a very close shoot out.
RR: Finally, what are your expectations for Durham in this competition?
MP: I mentioned before that a cup run is always good and a great experience for players and fans alike, but if we don’t make it through, it’s not a big deal.
It’s a chance for young players to get some first team experience, for injured players to make a return, and a chance to play a top WSL side in Aston Villa.
Whatever happens can be viewed as a positive.