Carlton Fairweather is looking forward to another challenge for his Sunderland Ladies side when Manchester City come to town tomorrow.
The Lady Black Cats are flying in both Women’s Super League 1 and the Continental Tyres Cup but so too are City’s all-star squad.
They’ve been on a very good and consistent run.
And tomorrow night’s third group match will prove an acid test for Sunderland (kick-off 7.30pm).
City have reeled off four WSL1 wins in a row plus back-to-back victories in the Continental competition.
They bring a squad featuring their England stars Toni Duggan, Karen Bardsley, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott and Lucy Bronze, the latter three all ex-Sunderland girls.
They also have another former Lady Black Cat in Demi Stokes, who was unlucky to miss out on the World Cup squad.
City moved to within two points of second-placed Sunderland after a 3-2 win at Arsenal on Sunday and have a game in hand as the title race hots up.
But the Lady Black Cats are in good form themselves, Kelly McDougall’s late equaliser against Liverpool on Saturday stretching their unbeaten run to seven matches.
“It was one of our toughest games of the season,” admitted Fairweather.
“Credit must go to Liverpool, who have a lot of quality players, but credit too to our girls for their character and staying in the game.
“Tomorrow’s game will be good to give us an idea of where we sit among all these teams at the top.
“We played City in our first home game and they have developed a little bit more since then.
“They’ve been on a very good and consistent run since then and it’s going to be a very good contest and challenge.”
It’s going to be a big night for the defence, in particular, and Fairweather is again likely to pair skipper Steph Bannon and Tori Williams at the heart of the defence.
The pair face a long stretch together at the back with Hayley Sharp ruled out for nine months with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
Williams was outstanding against Liverpool and Fairweather praised the former Doncaster star.
“She had a very good game,” said the head coach. “She’s developed really well and can operate across the back four and midfield.
“She did very well along with Steph Bannon.”
Sharp has undergone surgery on the injury sustained in the WSL1 win over Notts County last month.
The match has been put back to 7.30pm to give fans the chance to watch both the men’s and women’s Sunderland teams tomorrow.
Tickets are available online at www.sunderland.fawsl.com/tickets, priced at £4 for adults and £2 from under 21s and over 65s.
Fans can pay on the day– £5 for adults, £2.50 for under 21s and over 65s.
SAFC season card holders pay just £3 and special family tickets are priced at £6 for an adult and child and £10 for two adults and two children.