Mulhern: Sunderland women need six points to seal title triumph

GREAT DISPLAYS: Sarah McFadden.

GREAT DISPLAYS: Sarah McFadden.

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SUNDERLAND Women manager Mick Mulhern is expecting no slip-ups from title rivals Leeds United as the Premier League season reaches a thrilling finale.

Watford head the table with 38 points, but have completed their fixtures.

Sunderland are second with 36 points, while Leeds are a further four points adrift, with both having three games left – and the final game sees the rivals clash at Eppleton CW.

In theory, Sunderland could be crowned champions tomorrow. A victory at Aston Villa, coupled with a Leeds’ failure to win at Coventry, would be enough to seal a third successive league title for the Wearsiders. Even a draw for Leeds would not be enough, as Sunderland have a far superior goal difference.

Winning the title tomorrow, though, is not in Mulhern’s thoughts.

“As far as I’m concerned, we need six points and that’s our focus,” he said.

“I don’t believe in ifs, buts and maybes – we know what we have to do and that’s to win every game. I expect Leeds to beat both Coventry and Portsmouth comfortably.”

Villa, though, will be a major test.

They lie fourth in the table and are on a high after beating Leeds on penalties in the Premier League Cup final at York City on Sunday.

When the two teams met back in September, the Lady Black Cats took the points in a hard-fought 2-1 victory.

“Villa are a very good side,” explained Mulhern. “They are well-disciplined defensively and an attacking threat, especially from set-pieces.

“I’m surprised they haven’t figured in the push for the league and I’m not surprised they won the cup.

“I believe they’re better than Watford to be honest and I expect a very tough game tomorrow. They’re not the type of team who will rest on their laurels. They will want to beat us, so we must be at our best.”

Mulhern will be looking for another good performance from Sarah McFadden in midfield, the Northern Ireland international having impressed since getting into the side after a spate of injuries.

“Several players have responded well to being given a run of games, but none more so than Sarah, who I think has been excellent in every game,” said Mulhern.

“She is a top player for Northern Ireland at centre-half. She loves to play out from the back, and she has been asked to do the same job but just 20 yards further forward.

“The defensive job is easy for her as all I’ve asked her to do is screen the back four, but when we have the ball I want her on the ball and pulling the strings. She’s been great.”