Sunderland-Chelsea: Ladies braced for big WSL test
New-look Sunderland Ladies are excited ahead of their new start '“ though they are braced for the toughest of nights.
The Lady Black Cats take on Women’s Super League 1’s most gifted side when they entertain Chelsea at their new home base, Mariners Park in South Shields (kick-off 7.30pm).
Chelsea won the WSL1 Spring Series in impressive fashion, scoring 32 goals in just eight games, including seven at Sunderland as the home side were overwhelmed.
And the Blues have begun the new campaign in equally-emphatic style, beating Bristol City 6-0.
Sunderland defender Tori Williams says the squad are up for the challenge, not just tonight but the entire season, which will staged over the traditional football calendar following its summer run in recent years.
Williams says the new signings have all settled in, not only to the squad but into the club psyche.
Ellie Stewart, Zaneta Wyne, Kasia Lipka and Simona Koren all made their debuts in last weekend’s 1-0 victory at Reading, where the side showed tremendous resilience after Koren had scored early doors.
“All the new girls have settled straight in and bought into the Sunderland mentality,” said the 27-year-old.
“Being a Sunderland player is not like being at any other club, it always feels like it’s a bit do or die.
“The new girls are all hard workers and I think that’s shown already.
“We know how hard this match will be, you only have to look at the players Chelsea have in their squad.
“I’m not going to go overboard and say we’ll win 4-0 [the result from the 2015 match].
“We need to manage the game better and look after the ball better than we did that day last season, but we’re looking to be competitive and be hard to beat.
“We are looking to improve game by game as a team and build on the Spring Series and last week’s good win.”
It seems to go with the territory where the Lady Black Cats are concerned that a new season opens in some sort of turmoil.
Ahead of the Spring Series it was the club’s announcement that SAFC Ladies were going to a part-time model and, on this occasion, it was Sunderland’s decision to switch home grounds to South Shields and remove the Ladies from the Academy of Light training facility.
“It was important for us to get off to a good start last week,” said Williams.
“There has been a lot of negativity around our team – not in the camp where the spirit is great – so to kick off with a win was great.
“To win at Reading, somewhere we have not won for a number of years, was an achievement in itself.
“But given all that’s been going on around us and the fact the men’s team are having a tough time it was a good win.
“Last week’s win can only breed confidence and belief and we’ll look to take that forward.”
l Mariners Park is on Shaftesbury Avenue in South Shields and the post code is NE34 9PH. Cash turnstiles are open on the night.