Steph Bannon says Sunderland Ladies must “leave everything on the pitch” when the side take on WSL1 title favourites Manchester City.
The Lady Black Cats visit the City Academy Stadium on Sunday ahead of a mini-break in the division.
When WSL1 resumes in September, Carlton Fairweather’s side meet Doncaster (away), Notts County (away and home) and Birmingham City (home).
That sequence of games will be critical to the club’s survival hopes, rather than a clash with the leaders and richest club in the world, which is an uphill task at the best of times.
But skipper Bannon stressed that Sunderland need to give Sunday’s first v seventh clash their absolute all and make sure they do not gift their opponents any goals.
The Lady Black Cats were beaten 4-0 at home by another title contender, Arsenal, last Sunday, when they conceded two penalties, though there were several encouraging signs.
“We understand how tough Sunday will be and we accept the challenge,” said Bannon. “We know we would have to be at our best and catch them on an off-day.
“But we know there is going to be no match after this for a month, so, on Sunday, we are going to have to leave everything on the pitch.
“If we are beaten, there will be no match straight away to put things right.
“We’re going to have to make sure we give a good performance and give ourselves a chance of winning a point or three.
“We have been building our confidence and we created chances against an Arsenal side who are flying and had Jordan Nobbs running the show. But we must make sure we don’t give sides like Arsenal penalties and goals – we can’t afford to give ourselves a mountain to climb.
“That game has passed now, but we’ve got to take the positives from it and focus on Man City. If we can defend better than we have been, and take one of the opportunities when they come along, then we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
The match is far removed from last year’s trip to City when Sunderland were chasing the title before eventually finishing fourth.
“It’s been quite a frustrating season,” said Bannon. “We had a great 2015, but things have not clicked this year.
“We knew it was going to be slightly harder this time around, but we’ve not really had the rub of the green.
“But we need to keep working hard and, if we do that, the points will come.”