Carlton Fairweather was today facing one of the most difficult selection decisions of his reign as Sunderland Ladies boss.
The head coach must choose between vice-captain Rachael Laws and summer signing Hilde Olsen for the keeper’s jersey in the vital Women’s Super League trip to Birmingham City on Sunday.
Olsen has been between the sticks for the last four WSL1 matches after joining during the mid-season break following a knee injury to Laws.
The 23-year-old Norwegian has not put a foot wrong in a run of three wins and a draw.
But Laws is the team’s vice-captain and is now fully fit, a point she proved in last week’s Continental Tyres Cup tie at home to Manchester City.
Now it is up to Fairweather to make the choice for the crucial match at Solihull Motors’ ground.
“They are two very good goalkeepers,” said Fairweather. “This will be something me and [assistant] Mel Reay will sit down to talk about.
“We know someone is going to be disappointed.
“But it’s up to us to make sure the one who misses out still feels very much part of the squad, which they are.
“A decision has to be made and that falls to me.
“The one left out for Sunday must understand she’s a good goalkeeper and continue to perform well.”
Fairweather hopes to have a full squad to choose from for the match against the Blues.
Skipper Steph Bannon and winger Abbey Joice have all recovered from illness, while top scorer Beth Mead trained yesterday after recovering from a knock which forced her off in the 3-1 defeat to Man City.
Emma Kelly is currently feeling below the weather, but Fairweather hopes she will be fit.
It is a game Sunderland realistically must win to stay in title contention, given their last three matches are all against top four opposition.
Birmingham have endured a miserable season, even though they boast England star Karen Carney in their ranks.
The Blues have won just once and, unbelievably, have scored only TWO goals in 10 games.
It is a dreadful run of form though, defensively, they are not bad, conceding only 12 goals, seven of which came in defeats to the top two of Chelsea (4-0) and Sunderland (3-0).
“They may have only scored the two, but we must make sure we’re not the team they go and score against,” said Fairweather.
“It’s a game we must make sure we are mentally and physically prepared for and go out with the right frame of mind.”