ENGLAND Under-20 striker Beth Mead’s rich vein of goalscoring form continued to help power Sunderland towards promotion.
The 19-year-old scored twice in the opening 10 minutes to put the lady Black Cats in the driving seat against mid-table opposition at Hetton.
And she might have had a hat-trick within quarter-of-an hour had she been able to steer a long-range free-kick from Stephanie Bannon wide of busy Watford keeper Lauren Davy.
That half-chance went begging though, as did a string of others from the home side, and Watford punished that by pulling a goal back just before half-time.
That lapse from the home team could have sparked nerves in lesser sides.
But such is the confidence running through this Sunderland side that they quickly restored their two-goal advantage early in the second half and might have easily scored more than the four they finished with.
The Wearsiders had got off to the best possible start with a first-minute penalty when right-back Abby Holmes was tripped on the right of the box after a powerful run and Mead blasted a shot to Davey’s right.
Davey got a fingertip to the ball but was powerless from preventing the Black Cats making a dream start.
One-up became two-up inside 10 minutes with Mead striking again – nodding a Kelly McDougall free-kick from the left of the box across Davey at the near post.
That’s six goals for Mead in her last four games.
The game would have been killed off had Sunderland been able to grab a third but for all their impressive approach work, it never happened.
And in the 43rd minute Watford threw themselves a lifeline when a mistake by keeper Helen Alderson left the ball at the feet of Sasha Adamson 12 yards out and she drove it home.
It was the worst possible time to concede – just before the break – but Sunderland made light of it.
They resumed with renewed determination and Keira Ramshaw’s emphatic finish from six yards out in the 51st minute restored their two-goal lead.
Ramshaw went on to hit the post with a powerful strike from the edge of the area while Black Cats’ skipper Steph Bannon nodded over from two yards out as the Wearsiders resumed their former dominance.
Watford barely reached Alderson in the Sunderland goal in the second half.
And it was left to substitute Sophie Williams to produce a scoreline which more accurately reflected the balance of play when she notched Sunderland’s fourth with a classy finish in the 82nd minute.
The victory was the Black Cats’ fourth in a row and extends the Wearsiders’ lead at the top of WSL2 to eight points, although Doncaster Belles can reduce the deficit to five if they win their game in hand.
The games are running out though and Sunderland are now red-hot favourites for the division’s solitary promotion spot.
Sunderland: Alderson, Holmes (Beer 69), Bannon, Sharp, Greenwell, McDougall (Briggs 85), Furness, Bass (Williams 58), Joice, Mead, Ramshaw. Subs not used: Harkness, Wilson Gutteridge, Johnson.
Watford: Davey, Robe, Gunn, Wride, Butterwick, Mays, Donnelly, Farrow, Natkiel, Adamson, Mosengo (sub Deacon 77). Subs not used: Burgess, Hill, Scheffer, Lee.
Ref: Helen Connelly. Att: 318.