ANOTHER day, another four goals.
If Sunderland are to be playing Women’s Super League 1 football in 2016 – and they are good enough to do so – they must smarten up, at both ends of the park.
Lady luck, it has to be said, was not exactly smiling on Carlton Fairweather and his team last night.
The first Notts County goal was a deflection from a free-kick and Sunderland were denied by a combination of keeper and crossbar when they were 2-1 behind.
And they were down to 10 players when Notts scored their third goal, with Steph Bannon off the field receiving treatment.
The loss of their influential skipper, with an arm injury, did not aid their cause.
Hopefully she will be fit for the crucial home match with Birmingham City a week on Saturday. So too Rachel Furness, who sat out the defeat at Meadow Lane with a groin injury.
For all the misfortune, Sunderland lost because they pressed the self-destruct button by conceding three goals in just nine disastrous minutes.
Following a half-time blast from Fairweather, the girls upped their game in the second period and Tori Williams headed in the second away goal.
But the damage had already been done, as the head coach admitted.
“I told them (after the game) it wasn’t good enough,” said Fairweather. “We need to be better.
“I had warned them how well Notts County would compete and put us under pressure, but we didn’t defend well in the first half and that’s what let us down.
“There were too many individual mistakes – we have to stop them.
“When we cut them out, we’ll start to get something from games.
“They got a kick up the backside at half-time and the girls came out for the second half and showed some pride and we got a goal out of it.
“We’ve had chances – they’ve probably had four chances and scored them all.
“Rachael Laws has not had a shot to save in the second half.
“It’s disappointing, we’ve now got Birmingham City next and we have to get something from that game.”
And it would indeed be disappointing were they to be dragged into a relegation battle and hopefully it won’t come to that.
In terms of attacking threat, there is little wrong in the Sunderland camp.
Indeed, they could have been 4-0 up before Notts County even scored.
After Sunday’s late horror show at Arsenal, where they conceded three times in 11 minutes to lose 4-1, a good start was a must.
And how they delivered with a delightful fifth-minute Beth Mead goal.
Notts struggled with Vicky Greenwell’s ball down the left channel and Mead needed no invitation to go through and lob her right-foot shot into Carly Telford’s left corner.
It was almost two in the eighth minute when Kelly McDougall went just wide of Telford’s right post and Mead was then found by a delicious Brook Chaplen through ball in the 17th minute.
This time, Mead went low and ex-Sunderland keeper Telford got down well to her right to save.
Sixty seconds later, Chaplen was caught in the left side of the area but she stayed on her feet. Had she gone to the turf. it looked a certain spot-kick.
Life is littered with “what ifs?” but had one or two of those moments produced goals then who knows what the outcome would have been?
The Notts County equaliser, in the 21st minute, must have felt like a kick in a tender area.
Sunderland conceded a soft free-kick 23 yards out up the middle. The set-piece looked tailor-made for the left-foot of full-back Alex Greenwood, but instead it was Dani Buet’s right boot.
Her attempt hit the wall and went past a wrong-footed Laws, who was picking the ball out of her net for a second time within two minutes.
The Lady Pies opened up the away defence and Ellen White slid her right-foot shot from 12 yards to Laws’ left.
Luck was with County again in the 26th minute. Sarah McFadden headed a Greenwell free-kick towards goal only to see Telford pull off a stunning save, palming the shot onto the bar.
Amy Turner cleared off the line under pressure from Bannon, who was injured in the process.
And while Sunderland were minus their captain and in a bit of disarray, the hosts made it three, Jess Clark scoring from the edge of the area after coming in from the left, though Laws will be upset not to have kept it out as she dived to her left.
The keeper was beaten to her left eight minutes from half-time when Rachel Williams superbly headed in from Sophie Walton’s cross from the right.
With that goal, Sunderland had gone from potentially well in command to being 4-1 down and staring defeat in the face.
After the break, the Wearsiders were a much better proposition.
Mead went within a coat of paint of Telford’s right-hand post, with the keeper beaten, after bursting down the right in the 58th minute.
McFadden headed wide from another Greenwell free-kick and Abbey Joice drew a good save from Telford with a powerful 66th-minute shot which looked destined for her top-left corner.
Sunderland did pull one back when Williams nodded home from six yards following a 74th-minute Greenwell free-kick from wide on the right.
Given the sights of goal they had, Sunderland are a side who can excite and entertain and are one who are worthy of their WSL1 status.
But to keep it they must stop conceding fours.
NOTTS COUNTY LADIES: Telford, Walton, Bassett, Greenwood, Turner, Clarke, Buet, Crichton, A Whelan (Susi 70), Williams (O’Sullivan 77), White. Subs: Draycott, F Whelan, Plumptre, O’Neill. Booked: Greenwood. Goals: Buet 21, White 23, Clarke 29, R Williams 37
SUNDERLAND LADIES: Laws, T Williams, Sharp, Bannon (Wilson 31), Greenwell, Joice, McFadden (Hill 90), McDougall, Chaplen, Ramshaw, Mead. Subs (not used): Bass, Gutteridge. Booked: Greenwell. Goals: Mead 5, T Willliams 74
Referee: Lisa Rashid.