Sunderland striker Beth Mead says she and her team-mates will go into the final day of the season looking for a big finish – and to enjoy themselves.
The Lady Black Cats’ winless run extended to seven games on Saturday as they went down 3-1 at home to Arsenal.
This Sunday, they visit a Chelsea side who will win the WSL1 title if they match or better the result of title rivals Manchester City.
Winning at double-chasing Chelsea is a big ask of Sunderland, who will finish the season in a terrific fourth place, although they did beat the Blues 4-0 in the shock result of the season back in July at Eppleton CW.
After Saturday’s defeat, which ended Sunderland’s slim hopes of Champions League qualification, Mead said: “We’ve got to think about the bigger picture.
“The girls have been great this season, and just thinking about title contention is massive because we only wanted to stay in the league at the start of this season.
“The girls just need to take it all as a positive.
“Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea are showing why they are at the top because they’ve been consistent all season, whereas we were more towards the start of the season.
“Our downfall has been the second half of the season, but we’ll learn from this and we’ll just go out again to enjoy – and prove ourselves – in the last game before moving on.
“Our aim is the title next year.
“We know we can compete at the top, play the best and beat the best.
“We need to set our sights high and keep pushing on.”
The deadlock was broken after a quarter of an hour when former Sunderland star Jordan Nobbs sprinted from box to box.
Hilde Gunn Olsen smothered Alex Scott’s low effort, but the ball spilled loose and Chioma Ubogagu was on hand to poke the ball home.
However, the visitors’ lead lasted just five minutes as Abby Holmes played an inch-perfect ball through for WSL1 top scorer Mead, who rounded the goalkeeper and applied a calm finish.
Danielle Carter, fresh from a debut hat-trick for England, saw a stinging effort pushed just wide of the post by Olsen at the end of a half that lacked clear chances.
The Gunners restored their lead soon after the restart though, as Ubogagu deftly stroked the ball into the corner of the net after connecting with a neat pass from Scott.
Arsenal killed the game with 15 minutes to go as a mix-up in the Sunderland defence allowed Natalia to lob the ball over Olsen’s head into the gaping net.
Sunderland: Olsen, Holmes (Potts 83), Greenwell, Bannon (c), Williams, Furness, McDougall, Chaplen (Kelly 70), Ramshaw (Roche 83), Joice, Mead. Subs not used: Wilson.
Bookings: Greenwell (90+5)
Red cards: none
Arsenal: van Veenendal, Scott, Stoney, Losada (Bailey 86), Natalia, Nobbs, Carter (Corredera 77), Ubogagu (Yankee 63), Williamson, Rose, Janssen. Subs not used: Byrne, Simpson, Humphrey, Wubben-Moy.
Bookings: Casey Stoney (87)