The Lasses have had a tough pre-season results-wise so far, only managing one goal and failing to pick up a victory - but, they managed to muster their strongest performance to date against our local rivals who recently went to a full time professional model and have made a number of new signings, meaning there was a certain feeling of entering the unknown.
Our opponents weren’t allowed to get going against an energetic and committed Sunderland side who were really impressive with their pressing from the first whistle, preventing the visitors from settling into any sort of rhythm.
Manager Mel Reay has added height this season, namely in the form of new centre back Amy Goddard (who put on an excellent performance alongside the ever-reliable Brianna Westrup) and the threat we carry from set pieces was immediately realised. A quality corner delivery from another new signing Katie Kitching caused chaos in the Newcastle box and Jenna Dear was on hand to smash home the seconds and give the lasses a deserved lead.
The play in midfield was fairly scrappy, lots of tackles and determination from both sides, the sort of thing you’d expect from a derby. Sunderland’s defence though were able to handle anything thrown at them and an interesting duel between new signing Mary McAteer and former Sunderland player Charlotte Potts was developing down our right hand side. McAteer was tenacious throughout the game and was able to break free of her marker and unleash a strike that sailed into the top corner for 2-0. An excellent goal and some way to announce yourself in front of the home crowd.
The start of the second half saw Newcastle get back into the game with another scrappy goal from a corner but despite our opponents energetic start the game soon settled down.
Sunderland forged some more chances of their own until the 75th minute when Newcastle midfielder Emma Kelly had a rush of blood to the head and after a physical tussle for the ball decided to just kick one of our players. Already on a yellow card, the referee had no choice but to show a second and give her her marching orders.
That really signified the end of Newcastle’s chances of getting a result from this game. Mel Reay introduced Katy Watson from the bench and sent her up top, dropping Liz Ejupi into a deeper role. The lasses played to Watson’s pace perfectly. Sending through balls in behind that their defenders couldn’t do anything with.
Watson latched onto one in the 83rd minute and coolly dispatched a finish for 3-1.
The icing on the cake came from McAteer’s second, she raced into the box to apply a finish to a cross from Grace Ede who did absolutely superbly by beating her marker down the right hand side and playing a killer ball across the face of goal.
The final kick of the game made it 4-2 after Newcastle were awarded a penalty for handball I think. It was a bit weird, no one seemed to appeal but alas it mattered not. Sunderland won against Newcastle and that’s always a very good thing.
McAteer got player of the match for me with two goals and a very enterprising performance on the right hand side, but the whole team put in a great performance. Kitching looks like being a very important player for us in midfield while Goddard was immense at the back.
All of the new signings did really well and the likes of Watson and Ede coming off the bench offer us some real attacking depth.
Special shout out as well to Keira Ramshaw, she’s been sidelined for so long now it was great seeing her get on and her presence throughout the season cannot be underestimated.
This season offers a lot of intrigue for Sunderland after big changes to the playing squad and the introduction of a hybrid model where some of the squad have been offered full time professional contracts.
There’s plenty of room for growth and plenty to be excited about so I urge you; if you have a free Sunday then get yourself along to Eppleton and get behind the Lasses.