Sunderland Ladies legend Steph Bannon: Fifth place was a good way to go out

Steph Bannon (centre) celebrates Sunderland Ladies' equaliser with scorer Beverly Leon against Reading
Steph Bannon (centre) celebrates Sunderland Ladies' equaliser with scorer Beverly Leon against Reading
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Steph Bannon says she has picked the right time to bring an end to an illustrious career.

Sunderland’s captain led the team to a fifth-place finish in the Women’s Super League Spring Series, which finished on Saturday with a battling 1-1 draw with Reading at Eppleton CW.

A lot of people wrote us off before the start of the season, didn’t they

STEPH BANNON

The Lady Black Cats finished below the big three of Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal, plus long-time leaders Liverpool.

But they ended above FA Cup finalists Birmingham and Reading, both full-time outfits, plus the promoted clubs Bristol City and Yeovil.

Following the upheaval of losing their two star forwards, Beth Mead and Brooke Chaplen, and midfield dynamo Rachel Furness, plus the club’s announcement that they had gone to a part-time model and dispensed with head coach Carlton Palmer, it was some response by Melanie Reay’s team.

“I’m happy to take fifth,” said Bannon, who was outstanding at the back in her swansong.

“A lot of people wrote us off before the start of the season, didn’t they?

“No-one gave us much of a chance.

“The fact the girls have got results and been competitive throughout is a credit to everyone.

“Sometimes we had not played as well as we’d have wanted to, like Saturday, but we’ve still come away with points.

“At least I can leave knowing the squad and the club are in a good place.”

Reading had the better of the contest, but, after taking a first-half lead through Melissa Fletcher, home sub Beverly Leon found the net with a 56th-minute equaliser.

At times, the Lady Black Cats had to put their bodies on the line, but Bannon says the way they did that mirrored the new defensive resilience.

“When Mel came in, she made sure we were a lot tighter as a defensive unit.

“She informed us how many goals we conceded and told us that it would be a long season if we continued to defend like we did last season.

“Credit to Mel for the way she has approached it, she knew exactly what she wanted to do.

“Luckily for us, we carried it out correctly for her.”