Triple boost for Sunderland Women

Rachel Furness

Rachel Furness

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SUNDERLAND WOMEN manager Mick Mulhern has been boosted by a triple fitness boost ahead of tomorrow’s League Cup final against Leeds United.

The Lady Black Cats won the Premier League title last week, pipping Leeds by a single point.

And tomorrow they aim to seal more glory by completing the League and Cup double at Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium.

Sunderland’s hopes have improved with three players – defenders Abby Holmes and Gemma Wilson, and midfielder Rachel Furness – all training well this week after injuries, and all declaring themselves fit for selection.

“They’ve all had injury problems in recent weeks, but they have all trained well this week,” said Mulhern.

“Rachel went away with Northern Ireland last week but wasn’t able to train, and they sent her to hospital. She didn’t play against Cardiff, in the game where we won the title, but she’s available for the cup final and that’s a big bonus for us.

“Abby and Gemma have both been training – and they are certainly a lot closer to starting places than they were a few weeks ago. But I’m keeping my cards close to my chest and not naming the side just yet.”

The only downside to his preparations was that England U17 midfielder Keira Ramshaw played in a college cup final for Gateshead in Bristol yesterday, leaving her with the possibility of playing two games in three days.

Gateshead won the national college final 4-0 against Colchester Academy, with Ramshaw scoring a hat-trick.

Tomorrow’s final has meant Sunderland have just got straight back into training without any celebrations of the successful defence of the league title.

“It might have got a mention or two at training on Tuesday, but there was no mention about it on Thursday night,” said Mulhern. “Everone is fully focussed on winning the cup. It is always about the next game.”

The final pits clearly the two best sides in the Women’s Premier League against each other. Sunderland finished with 42 points, one ahead of Leeds and 16 clear of third-placed Barnet.

“It’s a fitting finale,” added Mulhern. “And we expect a very tough game. Leeds are a mean side – they don’t give much away. But we’ve beaten them twice this season (2-0 and 1-0) and also drawn with them in the group stage of this cup.

“They’ll be trying their best not to end the season empty-handed, but we are desperate to win the double.

“We’ve done OK in cup competitions over the years but always seem to come up against one of the big teams – maybe Arsenal or Everton – in the later stages. With the Super League teams not in the competition this season, it’s boosted our chances.

“But we have to take that chance now and win in the final.”