Hour-long delay after player collapses overshadows Sunderland Ladies' opening day defeat
Sunderland Ladies began life in the third tier of women's football with defeat to AFC Fylde - but a long delay after a Sunderland player collapsed marred the opening day game.
Emily Hollinshead’s first half strike handed the Coasters victory in a game which was overshadowed by a serious injury to Sunderland youngster Courtney Stewart.
Having lost the vast majority of last season’s squad - which finished seventh in the top flight - manager Mel Reay named a new-look side for their league opener against a well-established Fylde side.
The Lady Black Cats, who handed opportunities to several youngsters, were on the back foot early on as Nikki Berko headed over from a corner before the lively Hollinshead drilled wide from distance.
But the hosts grew into the game, with captain Keira Ramshaw and summer signing Jordan Atkinson both denied by Fylde goalkeeper Brittany Jackson having sprung the offside trap.
And Sunderland were made to rue those missed chances when Fylde took the lead on 33 minutes - Hollinshead’s cross fumbled into her own net by Sunderland stopper Sophy Stonehouse.
Then came the major talking point of the game, as Sunderland youngster Stewart went down off the ball prompting a near hour-long stoppage.
When the game resumed, Sunderland had a golden chance to level as Atkinson’s low cross was missed by Bridget Galloway and then put wide by Mollie Lambert at the back post with the goal gaping.
Chances continued to flow after the break with Sophie Charlton side-footing wide for the visitors before Galloway saw a shot well-blocked after a Sunderland corner caused panic in the area.
A late foul on Galloway provided an opportunity for skipper Ramshaw to level, but her low effort from the resultant free-kick was tipped around the post by Jackson.
There was to be no late heroics from the Lady Black Cats, who were forced to settle for defeat in their FA Women’s National League opener.
Reay’s side will look to bounce back next Sunday as they make the trip to face Bradford City.
Sunderland Ladies: Stonehouse, Brown, Beer, Stewart (Warren, 45), Young, Gibson (Woolston, 72), Lambert, Atkinson, Barker (Hutchinson, 62), Ramshaw (c), Galloway