An injury ravaged Sunderland Ladies were pushed all the way by a lively Coventry side, who proved to be very capable opposition in front of a big and noisy crowd at Hetton on Sunday. In an exciting game of many chances, the Lady Black Cats took the points with a Rachel Furness wonder strike deep into stoppage time. An own goal had given the visitors an early lead, but a Furness penalty had drawn the sides level by half time. Sophie Williams gave Sunderland the lead just after the restart, but Coventry pulled it back through Nicole Dale and just when it seemed the points were to be shared, up stepped Furness to strike the winner with the last kick of the game.
In a lively end to end start, Sunderland created the first opening as Keira Ramshaw went clear before freeing Sophie Williams to hit a great strike which came back off the bar and although Robin Chidester was first to react, she could only steer the ball wide under pressure from Natasha Lynch. At the other end Courtney Sweetman-Kirk raced through on goal but skipper Steph Bannon made a fine tackle to clear the danger. Beth Mead flashed a shot narrowly wide for the home side, before a speculative 25 yard effort by Helen Dermody went wide of the upright. The visitors took the lead in the 24th minute following a right wing free kick. As it was floated into the box, a crowd of players jumped together for the ball and it appeared to skim off the unlucky Ruth Sutcliffe’s head, as it found its way into the roof of the net.
Chidester made ground down the right before pulling it back for Williams to shoot, but Susan Wood made a fine stop in the Coventry goal. Then Rachel Furness won the ball in midfield to carry it forward and release Mead who pulled it back into the path of Williams and again Wood made a good save. Sutcliffe and Ramshaw linked well to set Williams free and as she prepared to shoot, she was tripped in the box and Furness confidently dispatched the resulting penalty in the 35th minute. Dermody tried her luck again from distance with a vicious swerving shot and Sunderland keeper Helen Alderson managed to parry the ball out and Sweetman-Kirk lifted the loose ball over the bar. A quick break from the visitors brought a great interception from Becky Salicki, who averted the danger with a timely tackle as the ball was safely cleared. Fine link up play between Chidester, Sutcliffe and Ramshaw saw Mead going for goal, but she was denied once more by the competent Wood in the Coventry goal.
HT...Sunderland WFC 1 vs 1 Coventry LFC
Sunderland were quick off the mark as the second half got under way. Mead won the ball and carried it forward to cleverly beat two defenders and pull the ball across the face of goal for Williams to slide the ball home at the far post in the 46th minute. Sunderland’s play began to flow more freely now as Chidester and Sutcliffe exchanged passes to set up Mead to shoot narrowly over. A free kick on the edge of the box was driven in by Bannon, but Wood smothered the ball well. Ramshaw and Mead went close, while a searching ball from Furness found Williams who was denied by Wood. At the other end Sweetman-Kirk closed in but she was denied by a challenge from Salicki before Ellie Christon brought the ball clear. Coventry drew level after 70 minutes against the run of play, when they were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position. As the ball was driven in, it bobbled around the box before Nicole Dale lashed home a great strike from an acute angle. A fine run down the left by Vicki Greenwell, left two defenders in her wake before she squared the ball into the box and as it rolled along the goal line, it was hacked clear and turned behind for a corner. A Dermody effort was comfortably held by Alderson in a rare Coventry attack, before efforts from Mead and Furness caused trouble at the other end. As the game moved into the closing stages, Sunderland were bombarding the Coventry goal in an effort to take the points, but just as it seemed time was against them, the Wearsiders grabbed the winner deep into injury time. Sunderland won a throw on the left and Williams took it quickly to Furness and with her back to goal on the left, she turned sharply to hit the ball into the middle and it carried over everyone and dropped into the far top corner of the goal, to signal wild home celebrations as the points were secured.
FT...Sunderland WFC 3 vs 2 Coventry LFC
Sunderland...Alderson, Christon, Bannon, Salicki, Greenwell, Chidester, Sutcliffe, Furness, Williams, Mead, Ramshaw.
Subs(not used)...Atkinson, Caldwell, Laws, Wilson.
Manager Mick Mulhern could not hide his delight after the game...”The squad has been stretched with injuries but we showed a lot of character today. That’s what I asked for at half time and the girls responded with a better second half display. We kept on fighting until the end and that’s what champions do.”