SUNDERLAND Women manager Mick Mulhern is demanding one final big effort from his players in the season finale at Eppleton CW tomorrow.
The Black Cats won the league title for a third successive year last Sunday – the three points from a 2-0 win against Cardiff City ensuring that title rivals Leeds United could no longer catch them.
And it’s Leeds who are the visitors to Hetton tomorrow, when the league trophy will be presented to Sunderland.
Mulhern, though, wants to end with a win – and right a wrong from last month when Leeds won 4-1 on Wearside to knock Sunderland out of the League Cup in the semi-final.
“I really want to win this game,” he said. “I think it would tarnish the presentation of the trophy if we picked it up afer losing.
“The semi-final defeat was a blow but it was at the peak of our injury problems and we had a lot of players out.
“We were also without our top scorer Beth Mead, who was away with England.
“It was far from ideal circumstances but, fair play to Leeds, they got the result – although the scoreline was flattering as they scored two late goals when we were chasing the game.
“Our full first team is the best in the league; we’ve proved that in the last three years.”
Midfielder Rachel Furness made a brief appearance after a substitite last Sunday after a spell sidelined with injury.
She is again in the squad which is at full-strength except for the absence of Natalie Gutteridge who faces a knee operation this summer.
Her recuperation has been estimated between six and 12 months, but Mulhern is hoping she will be back back in time for the start of the Super League season in March next year.
“Natalie is a big player for us and we’ve missed her,” said Mulhern.
“But pre-season training will not be until January, so I’m hoping she recovers well and is back in the fold.
“Although there is a long break before the next competitive game, the players will still be training with an emphasis on physical conditioning.
“I started planning quite a few weeks ago for the move to the Super League and there will be a few announcements soon on changes we are making.
“Everyone is looking forward to being involved and moving on.
“We’ve won the league three years in a row now, so it’s good to be facing a new challenge.”
Tomorrow’s game kicks off at 2pm, and Sunderland mascots Samson and Delilah will be there to meet fans.