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Sunderland v Blackburn - Barclays FA Women’s Championship

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Lasses Fan Focus: What can SAFC Women expect from Blackburn tonight?

Sunderland Women are back in action for some midweek football against Blackburn Rovers Women in the Conti Cup. We chat with Rovers Fan Matt Moonan to get the lowdown on this Rovers side and what we might expect

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

The two teams played each other in the league a few weeks ago, with Rovers coming out on top with a 1-0 win. Sunderland’s first loss of the season. Whilst a frustrating game for us, it was a great strategy by Blackburn. What did you make of their performance?

Going in to that game on the back of 5 straight losses, the last being a big home loss to LC Lionesses and at that point being a young side needing belief, I don’t think it was hard to predict Rovers were going to set up to be hard to beat and hope to nick something opportunistically at the other end.

Rovers have used those tactics successfully many times before too. I have seen your keeper is highly rated by more than just Sunderland fans online but in terms of the result, Rovers managed to capitalise on that one mistake to turn my 0-0 prediction in to a much-needed 0-1 away win.

However in terms of the overall performance, it was exactly what was needed to restore belief after the previous week’s result. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but the effort was there and that makes the world of difference and on this occasion was also rewarded with the points too.

Sunderland v Blackburn - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Nigel Roddis - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Blackburn just won 4-0 over Darwen in the FA Cup at the weekend. What did you make of that performance? Was it a changed side?

For Rovers, yes it was a changed side but maybe not how you would expect. Niamh Murphy was a fantastic player for us last season but hadn’t played this season due to injury so she was given a first start. Meg Hornby also returned to the side but ultimately to answer your question, overall I believe it was a first team lineup.

In terms of the performance, a 4-0 win away from home sounds solid enough but 2 missed penalties and the away game being only 8 minutes drive from the “Darwen End” side of Ewood Park against a 5th tier side (the lowest remaining in the competition) means it wasn’t surprising that our Manager’s words were about converting our chances better.

Darwen did play a physical game and had a few ex-Rovers youth players in their ranks wanting to prove a point, Rovers got the pantomime boos & their keeper had a great day so that may have played a part in keeping the score down. Afterwards there was predictably a lot of heartwarming reciprocation between the two clubs’ social media accounts so everything ended in a good natured way.

The Conti Cup isn’t particularly highly regarded by quite a few football fans, so how do you think Rovers will approach this game? What tactics may or will change?

I would expect Murphy to come on as a late sub and probably also Hornby too as the focus will be on keeping them fit but getting them enough game time in their last game of 2023 (this weekend’s league game v Lewes having been called off so Lewes can complete their 3rd round FA Cup fixture). Aside from that, I would guess we might use it as a chance to rotate in a few spots.

Darwen Women v Blackburn Rovers Women - Adobe Women’s FA Cup Third Round Photo by Richard Martin-Roberts - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

If Rovers 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?

For a prospect name, I would say Taylor Howarth who is a 19 year old that played in preseason games with the first team and has two Conti appearances so she would be my pick for a youngster that could do something.

Amongst our more established players, it might be a chance for Shanell Salgado, our other keeper with Championship experience that I rate. Lucy Shepherd, who I expect to feature, might have extra confidence from having scored last Sunday and finally, I wouldn’t rule out Jemima Dahou making an impact on the game too.

It’s always tough to give a score prediction, especially in cup competitions, but how do you see this game panning out?

I think Rovers go for goals. I’m feeling 2-2 with Rovers scoring first and last (if I do end up being right then hopefully they learnt from those missed penalties on Sunday for the shootout). It will also be affected by the strength of lineup Sunderland choose and it is the Conti Cup so anything could happen.


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