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Sunderland v Blackburn - Barclays FA Women’s Championship

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Lasses Preview: Can Sunderland Women grab an important three points away at Blackburn?

Sunderland have a great opportunity to continue their promotion push against a Blackburn side in mixed form. We have an in-depth look at both sides ahead of this match.

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

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Saturday 26th January 2024

Blackburn Rovers Women v Sunderland AFC Women

FA Women’s Championship

Lancashire FA Ground, Thurston Rd, Leyland, PR25 2LF

Kick-Off: 14:00pm

Tickets & Match Coverage

Tickets: Adults £8, £6 for over 65’s, £4 for kids under 17 and £2 for kids under 12. Tickets available to buy here: Event Information Screen - eTickets (

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.

Highlights: The FA Player will have highlights and a full match replay from Monday afternoon.

The Lasses

It wouldn’t be Sunderland AFC without a week full of drama and controversy. Be it the men's or women’s teams. The lasses put in a sensational performance against Sheffield United in the league last Sunday, winning 3-0 courtesy of an Ellen Jones goal and Emily Scarr brace. The three points, three goals and clean sheet meant Sunderland went back into second place in the Barclays Championship. Only one point off Charlton in first.

There was confidence and a feel good factor emanating around the club after that win despite the overawing occasion of a final Conti Cup group match against Aston Villa midweek.

Whilst there wasn’t necessarily an expectation to win, we all hoped that Sunderland could at least give a good account for themselves against a WSL side that boasts former league champions, European champions and players with at least well over 500+ combined international caps.

The first 20/25 minutes of the game and Sunderland were certainly proving they were no push overs. With 19-year-old Mary Corbyn causing problems down on the right wing. It was squad mixed with young players and players who have had limited minutes, but they were repelling the opponents.

Mary Corbyn looks to carry the ball forward for Sunderland
Konner Wells Photography

However, once the first Villa goal went in, thus began what was a less than enjoyable evening of football. Well, unless you were of a Villa persuasion.

The game ended 7-0 in the opponents favour, meaning they would progress to the quarterfinals of the cup and Sunderland were out... Or did it?

At the fulltime whistle, murmurings were doing the rounds amongst the 870 strong crowd, that Aston Villa had indeed fielded an ineligible player in Noelle Maritz. The new signing just joined the Villains two weeks previously from Arsenal and forgot to mention to management that she had already played in this competition three times for the Gunners.

The FA has referred the matter to an independent tribunal for consideration, with Villa being investigating for “an alleged breach of Cup Rule 8.19”. The permutations of the decision can have a staggering impact on numerous teams in the competition. Should the result be awarded to Sunderland, Sunderland will win Group A and therefore progress to the quarterfinals.

Ideally the issue needs sorting as soon as possible, with the quarterfinal draw taking place tonight and to be played on the 8th and 9th of February. Sunderland are very much focusing on their promotion push and upcoming league game against Rovers, so good certainly do without any additional hassle.

The Opposition

Blackburn currently sit 7th in the league and ten points behind Sunderland. Rovers have conceded 16 goals in eleven games and they also have the joint second-worst offensive record in the league, only scoring ten. So can the lasses exploit that backline and illustrate another inspired performance in what is a winnable fixture on paper. But it’s important to not get ahead of ourselves and retain our composure.

Rovers have also deployed numerous variations of formations throughout the season, from 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 and 4-4-1-1 with the former being the most primary used. Statistically 28% of the time. Blackburn generally stick to the formation they start with.

In terms of playing style, Rovers generally like to keep possession and play a passing game However, they do tend to lose the ball regularly during the game which has led to them conceding. From the highlights I saw, Rovers like to play down the wings and look to catch the opposition out with through balls in between the backline or balls over the top and into space for forwards to run onto.

When they are countering, they have at least four or five players join on the attack which the lasses will need to be wary of — particularly given the speed of some of their players. Despite playing a passing game, Blackburn like to cross deep into the box from the wings or when moving forward.

In terms of weaknesses, set pieces are a big one. I watched countless clips on Wyscout of the goals they have conceded both this season and last season, with a large proportion of them come from corners and/or freekicks. Primarily corners. They aren’t able to keep their defensive shape and line, failing to mark open players or follow a runner which is very very positive news to hear for Sunderland fans given we have scored eight goals from set pieces this season. Blackburn are also susceptible to getting caught too far forward, meaning if a counter-attacking opportunity presents itself, the players find it difficult to get back.

But we cannot be complacent. Despite the form Blackburn find themselves in, I have no doubt that the team will be taking this fixture as serious as all of their others, as we know just how competitive this league is this season and that anyone can beat anybody. Forward Megan Hornby will certainly have to be one the Lasses watch. The 23-year-old always looks dangerous when she is on the ball and has two goals and three assists for Rovers.

Crystal Palace Women v Blackburn Rovers Women - Adobe Women’s FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Alex Broadway - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Head to Head

(All venues, all competitions, including friendlies)

Sunderland wins: 8

Draws: 0

Blackburn Rovers wins: 6

Sunderland goals: 23

Blackburn Rovers goals: 11

Recent League Form

Sunderland: WLDLW

Blackburn: LWLLL

Last Time Out

Wednesday 18th December 2023 - Blackburn Rovers Women 0-3 Sunderland AFC Women

33’ Katy Watson

74’ Emily Cassap

82’ Libbi McInnes

Played for both

Natasha Fenton

The 24-year-old wore the captain’s armband last season as the side achieved their best points tally at this level. She made 221 appearances in total and scored 24 goals during her time at the club. She joined the club’s centre of excellence at the age of 13 and progressed through the ranks under long-serving manager Gemma Donnelly.

The midfielder made her first-team debut at 16 and went on to become an important member of the squad. She won three consecutive National League North titles between 2017 and 2019.

Fenton also helped Rovers clinch promotion to the Championship following a 3-0 play-off victory against Coventry United.

Sunderland v Durham - FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images


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