Sunderland Ladies return to where it all began tomorrow night when they visit Liverpool in the Continental Tyres Cup, writes Roy Kelly.
The Lady Black Cats opened their debut season in Women’s Super League 1 by shocking the defending champions 2-1 on Merseyside.
Sunderland have proved it was no fluke and sit proudly in second place in the WSL1 table just three points behind Chelsea with three games to play.
But now they return to CTC action at the Select Security Stadium in Widnes, where goals by Beth Mead and Brooke Chaplen took Carlton Fairweather’s side to a famous victory.
It was a dream debut for Chaplen especially given Liverpool’s her adopted city following a spell with Everton.
“Obviously that game was important for me as an individual and huge for the club,” said the attacking midfielder.
“It was a massive statement from us that we were not just in WSL1 to make up the numbers.
“We were determined that we would not be going straight back down and we’ve had a good season.
“Hopefully, we can go to Halton to repeat the success we had there already. But it’s going to be a different game this time. It’s definitely a game we’ll go and look to win.”
And it is a match Sunderland need to get something from.
Sunderland are third in group two of the Continental Tyres Cup, three points behind both Man City and Liverpool.
Only the top two teams from the three pools go through to the quarter-finals with the two best third-placed clubs joining them.
The Lady Black Cats have only two group fixtures left, at Liverpool and at home to Doncaster Rovers Belles.
While WSL1 is the club’s priority, Sunderland will not want to miss out on the quarter-finals of this competition.
And getting a result against the Reds will keep confidence levels up, which will be important as the season comes to a climax.
The two clubs drew 2-2 earlier this month at Hetton, the excellent Kelly McDougall scoring the late equaliser.
Liverpool showed that evening that they remain a high-class side even if their reign as WSL1 champs is coming to an end.
Chaplen said: “They are a tough side to beat, very physical, it was a quick game at home.”
Fairweather may well make a couple of changes to the side which drew 1-1 at Birmingham City on Sunday.
Summer signings Stephanie Roche and Hilde Olsen could come into the starting XI at Widnes.
Roche made way for Abbey Joice, who had a fine game, but the Irish star is likely to play to continue her acclimatisation to WSL1 football.
Keeper Olsen will consider herself unlucky to lose her place to Rachael Laws, given she had not put a hand or foot wrong after deputising for the injured vice-captain.
Laws performed superbly at Birmingham but, given the calibre of the goalies he has at his disposal, it would be no surprise if the Norwegian wears the gloves tomorrow evening.