The Lady Black Cats completely dominated from start to finish and although the game was spoilt as a spectacle by the gusty conditions it was the result that was important. A first half strike from Beth Mead and a goal direct from a Steph Bannon free kick late in the second half secured the game and took them 3 points clear of closest rivals Leeds Utd in the race for the Title.
Sunderland began facing the strong wind and were quickest to settle as Kelly McDougall was picked out by Rachel Furness to shoot narrowly wide. Vicky Greenwell sent Nicola Devine down the left to cross for Beth Mead to shoot wide from close in. Then from another Devine cross Natalie Gutteridge headed inches wide. The breakthrough came in the 33rd minute when McDougall released Mead with a delightful through ball and the young striker turned her marker and as her shot was parried by Rhian Nokes she was first to react to poke the ball home. Good work between Mead and Keira Ramshaw saw Abby Holmes bear down on goal but her effort was well held by Nokes. Cardiff at last mounted an attack as Terri Beddows picked up the ball on the edge of the box but her shot failed to trouble Rachel Laws. At the other end a Ramshaw cross was met on the volley by Mead but Nokes produced a fine stop and from the break Steph Williams tried her luck from 25 yards but it just cleared the Sunderland bar. The visitors goal bore a charmed life on the stroke of half time as a McDougall free kick was well met by Mead who saw her effort saved by Nokes. Sarah McFadden met the rebound but her strike was cleared off the line before Gutteridges attempt was hacked clear.
Sunderland WFC 1 vs 0 Cardiff City LFC
The Wearsiders dominance continued in the second period as Gutteridge met a McDougall corner but her header was scrambled away. Steph Bannon delivered a warning of things to come as her free kick from distance caught in the wind and deceived the keeper who managed to get her finger tips to it and push it over. From the resulting corner there followed a melee in the visiting goalmouth in which Sunderland were convinced the ball had crossed the line but play went on as it was cleared upfield. Yet another home corner saw a Gutteridge effort well held by Nokes before a McDougall shot from distance brought a fine save from the busy Cardiff stopper. A succession of Sunderland corners resulted in a McFadden header scraping the bar as the home side pushed for a second goal. The game was made safe however in the 80th minute as Sunderland were awarded a free kick wide on the left some 30 yards out. Bannons delivery again caught in the wind as it deceived everyone and sailed high into the Cardiff net. Further efforts by Ramshaw and Mead went close as Sunderland saw the game out comfortably in what had been difficult conditions.
Sunderland WFC 2 vs 0 Cardiff City LFC
Sunderland... Laws, Holmes, Bannon, McFadden, Greenwell, Ramshaw(Atkinson), McDougall, Furness, Devine(Williams), Gutteridge(Lee), Mead. Subs not used...Alderson, Salicki.
Mick Mulhern was delighted after the game... The conditions made it difficult today but we kept on trying to do things in the right areas and ended up playing some nice football. It was a good 3 points against a hard working team.
The reserves lost 3-0 at home to Everton in the FA Women's Premier Reserve League Cup semi-finals. Match report and photos to follow.
RESULTS: Sun 22 Jan, 2012
FA WOMENS NATIONAL PREMIER LEAGUE
Sunderland 2 - 0 Cardiff City
Charlton Athletic 0-0 Barnet
Watford 2-0 Nottingham Forest
FA WOMENS PREMIER RESERVE LEAGUE CUP Semi-finals
Sunderland Res 0-3 Everton Res
Bristol Academy Res 1-5 Arsenal Res