SUNDERLAND surrendered their 100 per cent record this season in a battling draw at third top Watford in the FA Women’s Premier League yesterday.
After five successive league wins, the dropped points came as a disappointment – though there was some consolation in that main rivals Leeds lost at home, meaning the Lady Black Cats extended their lead at the top to four points.
Sunderland began well with most of the early possession. Kelly McDougall had the first chance of the match with an effort that went just wide, then Steph Bannon had a free-kick saved comfortably by the Watford keeper.
Watford came more into the game, forcing several corners, while at the other end, Sophie Williams fired a shot just over the bar.
A Vicki Greenwell free-kick and a powerful effort from Rachel Furness were dealt with by the Watford defensive line.
With Sunderland controlling the half, they needed a goal to assert their dominance, but were instead it was the home side who went ahead when Jo Wilson latched onto Kate Natkiel’s pass and stroked the ball home.
After the interval, the visitors came out strongly and upped the pace which was rewarded as Furness played a good ball over the top and into the path of Keira Ramshaw, who cut inside and fired home to level the score.
Sunderland laid siege to the home goal, but Watford frustrated Sunderland, and Williams picked up a yellow card after she blocked a quick breakaway.
Sunderland did take the lead, though, when the nippy Beth Mead was upended in the area, which gave the referee no option but to point to the spot.
Kelly McDougall stepped up to drive home the resulting penalty.
The game should have put the game to bed soon after, with McDougall smashing the ball off the underside of the crossbar.
The visitors came to rue their missed chances, as Watford came up with a late equaliser. Right-back Abby Holmes took out a Watford forward in the area resulting in another penalty, which was dispatched well by Wiltshire.
Manager Mick Mulhern said: “If I’m honest, it was two points dropped. We gifted Watford a goal in the first half but the response in the second half was exactly as I asked of my players.
“We got ahead but sometimes things happen in a game that you can’t legislate for. We are still four points ahead and that’s good but we all know it should have been six.”
Sunderland’s next game is at home to Newcastle in the League Cup on Sunday.
Sunderland: Laws, Bannon, Holmes, Greenwell, Wilson (Salicki), Williams, McDougall, Furness (Sutcliffe), Gutteridge, Ramshaw, Mead. Subs not used: Alderson, Atkinson, Caldwell.