Ladies First Team vs. Sunderland (1 : 3)
FA WNL Northern Division
Sunderland edged past Sheffield to take their place at the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division summit in a 3-1 win at the Home of Football.
Black Cats’ captain, Keira Ramshaw, led by example with two second half goals after Sheffield’s Millee Clarke had cancelled out Katie Barker’s opener.
With last week’s drubbing by Blackburn Rovers still fresh in the mind, Sheffield were eager to not allow a repeat performance against in-form Sunderland, who had scored 16 times in their previous 4 fixtures, and would go top of the Northern Premier Division if they could win at the Home of Football.
And it was the visitors who were to ask the first questions of the day with Bridget Galloway forcing Liz Hobson to tip a long-range shot over the crossbar after five minutes. Sheffield were able to keep the Black Cats at arm’s length though in spite of their attempts to forge an early opening.
Megan Tinsley began a response from Sheffield, firstly a ranged shot over the bar followed by a tidy move between Molly Havard & Holly Housley allowing the full-back another attempt which this time was just off target at the back post.
Just as Sheffield seemed to be getting on top in the game, Sunderland took the lead when the impressive Katie Barker opened the scoring on 23 minutes, squeezing an effort under Hobson from a tight angle after a break up Sheffield’s left.
In spite of going behind, the Sheffield reaction was really positive, and was rewarded just before half time, when an excellent team move worked the ball up the left side to Housley who crossed in beyond the Sunderland defence to the on rushing Millee Clarke who slotted home her first senior competitive goal and Sheffield’s equaliser.
Once play resumed after the break, it was Sunderland who would emerge the sharper, instantly putting Sheffield on the back foot and exploiting the hosts’ lethargic start to the second half. A poor clearance by Hobson landed straight at the feet of Keira Ramshaw who had no hesitation in dispatching a shot into the back of the net to re-establish Sunderland’s lead.
Two could have turned into the three very quickly as Galloway was released through on goal only to fire wide of the target from a great position. Substitute Jordan Atkinson then had opportunity to extend the lead, but Hobson was on hand this time to maintain the score line and keep Sheffield in the game with a good save from close range.
Moments later, though, Sunderland’s persistence would pay off as Ramshaw was again on hand for her team after a quick counter-attack, her goal sealing the points for the Black Cats who climbed to the top of the table.
Sheffield never matched their display from the first half, with their only real sight of goal coming off a good move up the right with Jess Heald and Havard combining to set up Housley, but her shot flew over the stand.
“After last week, the players had to stand up and put that performance behind them,” said Sheffield’s manager, Kyle O’Reilly. “I thought this week we gave a much better account of ourselves, especially first half, where we looked to play to our strengths. The goal we scored was as a result of that and the players have to use that as a building block towards consistency.”
“At half time, everything was to play for in an even, competitive game. Sadly we started the second half really slowly, found ourselves behind again, and never really recovered. We moved away from the game plan and put ourselves under unnecessary pressure from there on in against a very good side.
“In spite of the score line, there are plenty of positives. I thought Milly Wortley, Molly Havard and Ellie Russell (all 18 or younger) had solid games, and to see Millee Clarke get her first senior competitive goal was a great moment too.”
“Almost every week, the group are finding themselves in situations and scenarios they wouldn’t usually be exposed to at youth or development football, and that experience is benefitting them all, even at this early stage of the season. I’m looking forward to see how we react and crack on now ahead of our trip to Fylde.”