Sunderland Ladies maintained their march to the Premier League title but they had to grind out a result in freezing conditions. Barnet were content to defend in numbers in an attempt to stifle the attacking threat of the champions on the sloping Underhill pitch. At times the Wearsiders laid siege to the home goal but had to wait until ten minutes from time before skipper Steph Bannon made the breakthrough, rifling home an Abbey Joice cross to secure a 1-0 victory.
The game got underway in a swirling wind and Barnet broke to win an early corner but it was comfortably dealt with by the Sunderland defence. The visitors settled into their stride and began to play the ball around well with Beth Mead testing the home keeper Cherie Rowland before Steph Bannon set Jordan Atkinson away but her strong cross was pushed away by Rowland. Then Barnet gained a free kick in a dangerous position but Helen Alderson claimed the resulting cross confidently in the Sunderland goal. As the visitors broke forward Gemma Wilson played the ball out to Vicki Greenwell who carried it forward before releasing Sophie Williams to cross and Ruth Sutcliffe headed narrowly wide. Sunderland then gained a free kick on the edge of the box and Steph Bannon�s effort thundered against the crossbar before being hacked away. Abbey Joice drove forward and played the ball over for Mead to pull it into the path of Williams but her shot was turned behind for a corner. Then it was Atkinson�s turn to run at the defence before pulling it back for Joice to hit an effort just over the bar as Sunderland finished the half well on top without being able to convert their dominance into goals.
HT...Barnet Ladies 0 vs 0 Sunderland WFC
There was strong vocal backing from a good away following boosted by the presence of SAFC�s London Branch who always provide great support when the Lady Black Cats are in the south of the country.
A rare Barnet attack almost caught everyone out as the cross skimmed the top of the cross bar before Ellie Christon and Gemma Wilson combined to clear the danger. Then as Atkinson probed forward she was brought down on the edge of box but the resulting free kick was cleared. Rachel Furness and Williams combined well to set up Mead who fired wide as Sunderland began to step up their game. Furness tried her luck with a powerful effort from distance which was well saved by Rowland.
Sunderland had strong claims for a penalty when the ball was played into the area and as Sutcliffe shaped to shoot she was clipped from behind but to everyone�s amazement the referee waved play on! There was a scare for the visitors when top scorer Beth Mead had to be helped from the field after picking up a knock to add to the already lengthy injury list.
Fine play again by Sunderland created yet another chance as Christon played ball into the path of Joice who cleverly beat her marker but could only fire over the bar. Then at last the home resistance was broken when following another attack the ball was partially cleared to Joice who carried it forward before playing it back into box for Bannon to crash it into the top of the net after 80 minutes.
FT...Barnet Ladies 0 vs 1 Sunderland WFC
Sunderland: Alderson, Christon, Bannon, Wilson, Greenwell, Furness, Sutcliffe, Joice, Atkinson, Williams, Mead (Beer).
Subs (not used): Laws, Salicki, Unwin
A delighted boss, Mick Mulhern spoke after the game....�It was tough today due to our growing list of injuries but we were always in charge. We just couldn't find an end product. Luckily the skipper (Steph Bannon) showed how to do it and the unbeaten run moves on towards 18 months.�