Sunderland stormed to victory at Preston on Sunday and in doing so achieved promotion to The Womens National Premier League by winning the Northern Division.
The 4-0 scoreline did not flatter the Wearsiders who pipped Lincoln to the title by one point on the final day of a very successful season for the young but talented Sunderland team who only two weeks ago pushed Arsenal all the way in the Womens FA Cup Final.
Preston started strongly and gained an early corner which was cleared by Steph Bannon. On 6 minutes a one two down the left between Sophie Halliday and Natalie Gutteridge resulted in a cross for Jordan Nobbs to volley just over. Then Lucy Bronze fed Demi Stokes down the right and her cross for Gutteridge was collected by Danielle Gibbon. Nicola Devine and Stokes went close before a Bannon free kick saw Bronze shoot wide on the half hour. Lucy Staniforth brought the ball forward and set up Nobbs but her shot was well saved by Gibbon. Preston broke away quickly through Sam Cadwallader but her shot was well marshalled by Rachael Laws. The breakthrough came in the 42nd minute when the visitors took the lead. Nobbs won the ball in midfield and brought it forward before releasing Stokes on the left who cleverly beat her marker and delivered a cross for Nobbs, who had continued her run, to volley home from the edge of the area. HT... Preston North End Ladies 0 vs 1 Sunderland Ladies
Preston began the second half brightly with Craig shooting narrowly wide. A Staniforth free kick saw Vicky Greenwell go close to increasing the lead and a Nobbs strike just cleared the bar. A Gutteridge flick saw a Sophie Williams lob beat the keeper but go wide of the post. Then a fine run down the right by Kelly McDougall saw a Gutteridge strike go just past the post as Sunderland began to turn the screw. The visitors scored a second after 65 minutes when Staniforth collected the ball and worked her way down the right before driving it towards goal, the ball deceived everyone and dropped over Gibbon and into the goal. McDougall then had a shot saved by Gibbon before a rare home attack saw Laws comfortably collect Walkers effort. Sunderland made the game safe after 79 minutes from a Stokes corner on the right which saw Gutteridge rise above the home defence and power a header into the roof of the net. The Wearsiders capped a fine champions performance with a fourth goal five minutes later. Bronze and Stokes linked well down the right for Nobbs to meet the cross and hammer the ball into the bottom corner. There was still time for Danby to strike the bar before the whistle blew to the delight of the travelling fans and signal a pitch celebration.
Officials from the FA were in attendance to present the Championship Trophy to a Champagne soaked team of worthy winners who can be rightly proud of their achievements this season. FT... Preston North End Ladies 0 vs 4 Sunderland Ladies
Sunderland...Laws, Bronze, Bannon, Greenwell, Halliday(Wilson), Stokes, Staniforth, Nobbs, McDougall, Devine(Williams), Gutteridge(Danby) Subs(not used)..Salicki, OBrien, Holmes.
A proud and emotional Mick Mulhern spoke after the game...The girls have been fantastic all season and have thoroughly deserved their success. The squad has an average age of just 19 and simply know no fear. That will help us next season. From a personal point of view I feel privileged to have managed a Sunderland side to the championship for a third time, It's a fantastic feeling.
The celebrations were tinged with a little sadness as Sunderlands England International Goalkeeper Helen Alderson, who was carried off last week at Leicester, received news that she has ruptured cruciate ligaments in her right knee and will undergo surgery. She could be out for up to nine months.