Sunderland continued their recent run of good form to see off the visitors from Bristol and extend their lead at the top of the Tesco FA Womens National Premier League to six points. In a scrappy game Bristol pushed Sunderland all the way as the home side were made to battle for the victory.
Early exchanges were even but the Wearsiders took the lead with their first meaningful attack in the 8th minute. Kelly McDougall brought the ball through the middle before releasing Sarah Danby on the left who cut inside her defender before beating Amber Thornell at her near post. Sophie Williams went close moments later but Bristol drew level in the 17th minute. Sunderland gave the ball away on the left and it was picked up by Emma Plewa who surged down the wing to cross behind the defence for Helen King to run on and beat the advancing Rachael Laws.
A McDougall corner found Natalie Gutteridge and her header was only partially cleared for Jordan Nobbs to volley over from the edge of the box. At the other end a powerful run by Alex Windell saw her cross just evade the outstretched foot of King. McDougall and Demi Stokes combined well to set up Nobbs who saw her fierce shot just clear the bar. Laws had to be alert to turn over a free kick from Bristols Katie Middleton then as the ball was cleared Plewa went on a mazy run but the end product produced no danger. In the final action of the half a Steph Bannon free kick was headed against the post by McDougall and scrambled off the line before Gutteridge could force it home.
HT...Sunderland WFC 1 vs 1 Bristol Academy Ladies
Sunderland began the second half with more purpose and regained the lead on 49 minutes. Fine play down the right involving Abby Holmes, Nobbs and Stokes saw the ball played into the middle for Williams to power a stooping header into the net. Soon after Nobbs released Danby who turned well on the edge of the box but Thornell pulled off a smart save. The pace of Plewa was causing the home defence problems and her cross saw Laws make a fine save from a Shelley Cox effort. Nobbs was again just off target following constructive play between Stokes, Danby and Gutteridge. Bristol pushed forward in search of the equaliser and gained three corners in quick succession before Nicola Devine cleared the danger. Sunderland weathered the storm and Danby almost extended their lead when she robbed Middleton on the edge of the box but saw her lob beat the keeper and the bar. Then Stokes was unlucky not to get on the score sheet as her powerful run took her beyond the defence and round the keeper only for her shot to be hacked off the line. Danby, Williams and Gutteridge also went close to adding to the score but as the final whistle blew Sunderland knew they had been made to work hard for the three points.
FT...Sunderland WFC 2 vs 1 Bristol Academy Ladies
Sunderland...Laws, Holmes, Bannon, Wilson, Devine, Stokes, Nobbs, McDougall, Williams, Gutteridge, Danby.
Subs...Salicki, Halliday, Fraser, Colledge, Atkinson.
Manager Mick Mulhern was philosophical after the game.. Id had Bristol watched and reports suggested they were going to be difficult to break down and so it proved. Although that doesnt excuse the fact that we were poor in possession in the first half and not up to the standards we have set recently. The response after the break was just what Id asked for and it is an important 3 points so I have to be delighted.