Sunderland Women manager Mick Mulhern will look to his defence to lay a solid foundation for another victory at Eppleton CW in Hetton on Sunday.
The Wearsiders can go six points clear at the top of the FA Premier League if they beat Bristol Academy in their third successive home game. Mulherns team is on a massive high after two stunning victories. A fortnight ago they produced the result of the season by beating all-conquering Arsenal 2-1, and then followed up last Sunday with a 2-0 win against a Chelsea side who were then joint league leaders. That win pushed Sunderland three points clear at the top and victory over strugglers Bristol will see them go further clear as both Arsenal and Chelsea play in the League Cup semi-finals.
Sunderlands most recent wins were built on solid defence. Arsenal have been averaging over four goals a game this season and Chelsea three, but between them they could only manage one goal between them against the Wearsiders. And Mulhern had a special word of praise for 21-year-old central defender Gemma Wilson, from Washington, who has forced her way back into the side alongside skipper Steph Bannon.
Gemma needed to work on her use of the ball in possession, said Mulhern. And at the start of the season I left her out. But she has come on extremely well this season. We have been doing a lot of sessions in training with the back four and they have all responded well. Gemma works well with Steph as they have slightly different roles and the partnership is flourishing. Gemma makes a lot of tackles and wins the ball. I havent seen better in the league this year at what she does.
After beating two top sides, a win against Bristol tomorrow might look routine. Sunderland won 2-0 on the opening day of the season at Bristol, who have just six points from 13 league games. They have also lost all five games on their travels. Mulhern, though, will not allow any complacency to creep in.
Bristol are a club on the up, he said. They have had a bad start but from what I have heard, they are turning it around. They were level at 1-1 away to Leeds Carnegie last week when the game was abandoned; and there is no way I will take them lightly. I am expecting another tough game. They are fighting for their lives in this division, so probably give us a different challenge to what we have faced in recent weeks.
Midfielder Lucy Staniforth may be available after missing last weeks game with a medial ligament tear, but Mulhern is still without Vicki Greenwell (knee) and Sarah Unwin (hamstring).
The game kicks off at 2pm. Admission is £3 for adults and £1 for children. Adults can get into this game for £1 if they print off a voucher click here.
Courtesy of Neil Watson, Sports Editor, Sunderland Echo.