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7 Jan 2012
Can't wait to get into action
SUNDERLAND Women midfielder Natalie Gutteridge says all eyes are on the Premier League title. And the 23-year-old can’t wait to get into action again after a month without a game.

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Sunderland play host to Nottingham Forest at the Hetton Centre (Eppleton CW tomorrow 2pm) – their game in hand on title rivals Leeds Utd – where victory would put them three points clear at the top as they look to retain the championship.

“We’re really looking forward to getting the season restarted,” she said. “We finished last year on a high with a 2-0 win at Leeds. It would have been good to have continued to play games on the back of such a good performance – but it was also nice to be able to go into the new year at the top of the table, as a result of the victory.

“We have all enjoyed the break, but we are all raring to go now. We’ve all been back in training ahead of the game and we’ve all still been doing our own fitness work.

“The win at Leeds has given us a great chance to win back-to-back titles but we know we can’t afford any slip-ups.

“We lost to Coventry and Villa earlier in the season which was disappointing, but I’d like to think we’ve learned a lot from those games. It shows that we can’t take any team for granted in this league.”

Sunderland have still to play away to Villa, in a sequence of three away games which ends the Lady Black Cats’ league programme, so points are needed on the board now.

Forest are second bottom with 11 points from 12 games. In the away fixture back in

September, Sunderland won 2-0 with goals from Beth Mead and Sarah McFadden.

Gutteridge was on target in the vital win at Leeds and is looking to contribute more on the goal front before the end of the season.

“I’ve been playing deeper this season and I’m really enjoying it, so I hope to continue in this role.

“It was good to get back on the scoresheet as I haven’t scored as many as I would have liked this season but as we’ve done so well, I haven’t really let it bother me too much. I hope to contribute with a few more goals in our remaining fixtures.

“It can sometimes take time to adjust to a new position but playing alongside Kelly McDougall and Rachel Furness in the middle has made it much easier to adapt.”

Sunderland start their League Cup campaign later this month and will also be embarking on an FA Cup campaign.

“We will be hoping to have good cup runs this season in competitions,” added Gutteridge.

“We were disappointed with our performance in last year’s League Cup, so will be looking to improve this time around and we always look forward to the FA Cup after reaching the final a couple of seasons ago.”

Neil Watson, Sports Editor - Sunderland Echo

Sunderland's Natalie Gutteridge in action against Birmingham, pre-season