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Lasses Review: We are top of the league!

Sunderland Women keep their promotion push going with a brilliant 2-0 win away to Blackburn Rovers, ensuring they go top of the Barclays Women's Championship

Kasey Taylor Photography

What a weekend to be a Sunderland fan, right? It’s certainly not often we can say that.

With both our men's and women’s teams winning on Saturday, it was definitely a great day to be of the red and white persuasion.

Despite a stressful and tumultuous journey down to Lancashire for the lasses due to their coach not turning up. The lasses eventually did make an entrance, one which was hard to miss in the highlighter yellow third kit.

Arriving around 13:15, Sunderland were quick out of the changing rooms and onto the pitch to get their pre-match warm up done, with kick off delayed only by a further ten minutes to accommodate the weary Wearsiders.

The line-up was an identical one to that which won 3-0 against Sheffield United Women last Sunday, with both Emily Scarr and Ellen Jones deservedly seeing starts following on from their phenomenal performances the previous weekend.

With around 30 Sunderland fans making the away trip to Lancashire, there was a cacophony of shouts and applause from the stands as the referee blew her whistle to start the game.

For the first 15 minutes of the game, it was a very open match with both teams looking to settle into a rhythm and test each others defences with long balls down the wings and through balls between the backline.

It was Blackburn who had the first real chance of the game in the 24th minute when danger woman Megan Hornby struck the side netting of Claudia Moan’s goal - a not so gentle reminder to the lasses that this wouldn’t be an easy game and they won’t sit back like they did in the return fixture at Eppleton over a month ago.

Mollie Rouse struck what looked to be the opener from distance just moments later in the 27th minute, hitting the ball with venom just outside the box and forcing Rovers keeper Alexandra Books into a diving save to tip it around the post and out for a corner.

The game continued to ebb and flow, with both teams eager to attack and catch each other out on the counter. There were a few niggly fouls and tackles going in from both sides, with frustration at the stalemate continuing to grow as the match entered the 30 minute mark.

Sunderland again continued to cross dangerous balls into the box and break through the Rovers backline with some sublime through balls for Emily Scarr, Ellen Jones and Mary McAteer to run onto. But unfortunately none resulted in shots on goal.

Just before the half time whistle, the lasses stood with their hands on their heads as they watched a shot deflect off a Blackburn player and lob the keeper. Alas, it also lobbed the crossbar.

There was a feeling of renewed energy and vigour from Sunderland when they emerged from the changing rooms at half time. Whatever team talk Mel Reay and her coaching team gave at half time seemed to work some magic, with the lasses racing from the blocks as soon as the referee signalled the start of the second half.

Within moments, Sunderland were harrying and pressing Blackburn, who were struggling to contain the revitalised Wearsiders who were about to put on a dominant spectacle.

Enter stage left, Katie Kitching.

There a three things certain in life. Death, taxes and Katie Kitching scoring from freekicks. I don’t promote gambling, but the second Kitch stepped over the ball I was willing to bet my house on the fact she would score. And score she did!

In the 47th minute, Kitching made it 1-0 to Sunderland and scored her fourth goal of the season, three of which have come from freekicks.

Sensing that the hosts were there for the taking. The lasses continued to push and pressure the Blackburn defence, utilising their fine repertoire and aptitude from set-pieces to try and add a second. Amy Goddard thought she had done just that from a corner, when she headed the ball into the top corner. Whilst the centre-back celebrated with a forward roll for her first ever Sunderland goal, the linesman on the far side didn’t get the message and decided to enact a belated rendition of Ebenezer Scrooge in a Christmas Carol. Bah humbug.

Minutes later, Sunderland once again appeared to have their deserved second, when Louise Griffiths made a wonderful run down the left wing and shot goalward, only to see her shot ricochet up and off the crossbar for a goal kick.

Claudia Moan was on hand (literally) in the 58th minute to maintain Sunderland’s lead in her first real call to action with a wonderful reaction save to tip the ball over the bar.

The lasses continued their relentless press and this was duly rewarded in the 63rd minute. Emily Scarr rushed towards the Rovers keeper when she received the back pass from her defender and forced Brooks into a quick response. The goalkeeper’s clearance cannoned off Scarr and agonisingly trickled into the back of the net to make it 2-0.

With the game nearing its conclusion, the gaffer opted for two substitutions, bringing off Katie Kitching and Ellen Jones for Jenna Dear and Liz Ejupi respectively.

The Kosovan forward came on and immediately made the intended impact desired from the bench. Firstly striking a venomous shot towards goal which the Rovers keeper just held onto and then moments later she headed a Natasha Fenton cross towards goal, but saw it blocked on the line by her own teammate.

The final whistle blew to signal the end of the game as Sunderland made it two wins from two in the league, another clean sheet, three points and sit top of the Barclays Championship!

With more fixtures set to be played tomorrow, including a very interesting match between second placed Charlton and third placed Crystal Palace, things are heating up as the lasses head into their final eight games of season, with promotion to the Women's Super League definitely on the cards.

I feel like a broken record with how often I have said this, but the entire team from players, coaching staff, photographers, nutritionists, media and physios should be immensely proud of what they have achieved this season.

The lasses now have an eight day break before travelling down south to face Reading FC, with myself and few others making the journey down on planes, trains and automobiles. The feelgood factor is alive and kicking.

Now to await the news about Sunderland’s Conti Cup journey...

Kasey Taylor Photography

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