Wednesday 8th November 2023
Sunderland AFC Women v Durham Women FC
Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground, Welfare Road, Hetton-le-Hole, Houghton-le-Spring, DH5 9NA
Tickets & Match Coverage
Tickets: £10 for adults, £7.50 for Over 65’s, £5 for U16’s and students https://www.eticketing.co.uk/safc. Tickets will not be available to buy at the ground on the day, so make sure you get them online!
Highlights: Highlights and a full match replay are available from Thursday on the FA Player.
Coverage: 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.
As derbies go, there are few closer and more keenly fought over in women’s football than that between the Lasses and the Wildcats. Only six and a half miles separate the two team’s home grounds and our shared heritage of players, coaches, and indeed supporters always ensures an intriguing and unique atmosphere.
There was a time when it was Sunderland going in as the underdogs to these derby fixtures, yet over the last year it has certainly been advantage Wearsiders. With the lasses getting a 1-0 win over Durham just a few days ago in the league. Sunderland deserved to win by a larger margin, with shots being fired just wide of the mark or forcing Durham’s Tatiana Saunders into action. Yet the lasses didn’t have it all their way and for the final 15-20 minutes, Durham were putting them under the cosh. But despite having a makeshift backline in midfielder Natasha Fenton in at centre-back and young winger Grace Ede slotting in at left back, the team did a marvellous job of keeping them at bay and limiting their chances on goal.
The two big chances Durham did have via a Poppy Pritchard header and a Jess Clarke final minute attempt were once again expertly thwarted by the ever-developing and magnificent Claudia Moan. At this point, we’re so confident in Moan’s abilities to come up huge when it most matters, that we should all just turn our backs and commence with the Poznan as we know she’ll save it. I’m confident she could save the NHS if she replaced Steve Barclay as health secretary.
That said, we may well see Moan given a break as games come thick and fast and given Mel Reay’s comments after the win on Sunday, stating that there would be some changes midweek for this fixture. In our last Conti cup game in which we saw a changed line-up and beat Sheffield United 3-2, it was Megan Borthwick who started in goal. Alongside the likes of Mollie Rouse, Katy Watson, Ellen Jones, Emily Scarr, Grace McCatty and Libbi McInnes all given their first starts or a chance to shine. Not to mention bringing on Sunderland U23 talents in Emily Cassap and Mary Corbyn on for their senior debuts, with the latter getting the all important winner in the 66th minute.
We saw Amy Goddard and Louise Griffiths out against Durham on Sunday, with the former being a big omission both metaphorically and literally until we were informed she had picked up a slight foot injury. Meanwhile we saw Griffiths limp off in our away win against Lewes FC early on after pulling up with what looked like a hamstring injury. Both players could well be given the opportunity to play tonight to build their match fitness back up or the coaching staff may well give them those extra days of rest to come back into the fold for our coming game against Blackburn on Sunday.
Regardless of the line-up and how we perform, I think all Sunderland fans would much prefer that we concentrate on the league given our fine form and being top of the table. Of course all of would like them to win another game in the cup and especially with the opponents being Durham, but the pressure is certainly off for the lasses and it’ll be Durham feeling the heat.
So we meet again.
Despite just playing away against Durham in the league on Sunday, we face our River Wear Neighbours once more but in a Conti Cup home game at Eppleton.
It’s difficult to say whether facing them again so soon is a benefit or a hindrance, as given the fact it is a cup game, you can never be too sure whether they will field the same starting eleven that they did at the weekend or look to play a more experiential and younger side.
However Durham are likely to come into this fixture with a point to prove and after their defeat to the lasses, they will want to regain the bragging rights. The Wildcats have always enjoyed playing in the Conti Cup and seen some spectacular performances and results against top sides like Manchester United. So they may well treat this game with the same respect as a league fixture. On the other hand, Durham currently sit 8th out of 12 in the league, so they may similarly to Sunderland, want to conserve their main starting eleven and give a few younger players or players with limited minutes a run out.
Physical... it’s the reoccurring theme of the descriptions of how Durham WFC side play the beautiful game. Certainly, once they cross that white line, any pretensions to reflect the family-orientated gentility one might expect from a side that’s hosted by one of the country’s most prestigious academic institutions are left behind.
Despite a marked drop off in form which has seen them drop from title challengers to mid-table obscurity. Durham undoubtedly still pose a threat to any side and goals come from across the park.
The Wildcats are very attack orientated and play with a high press and high defensive line, usually towards the halfway line. They are strong on corners – defenders get up and get involved with the likes of Abby Holmes, Becky Salicki and Dee Bradley getting forward along with Saoirse Noonan.
But that can also play into our advantage, as with that high defensive line and an aging (but still strong) back four, we can utilise the plethora of players we have with pace and acceleration such as Katy Watson, Mary McAteer and Emily Scarr to press them into making a mistake.
It will be a battle of mind games for sure, but one thing I’m certain of is that Mel Reay and her coaching staff will be solely focusing on their own game and won’t worry about what Durham will do or not do.
Head to head...
(All venues, WSL2/Championship + Continental Tyres Cup since 2014)
Sunderland wins: 5
Durham wins: 2
Sunderland goals: 16
Durham goals: 11
Last time out...
Durham Women FC 0 - 1 Sunderland AFC Women - Women’s Championship
Maiden Castle, 5th November 2023