SUNDERLAND produced a scintillating first-half performance to blow away fellow Women’s Super League 2 rivals Watford in the fourth round of the FA Cup yesterday.
The game began evenly with both sides testing each other out.
The first chance fell to Sunderland as Rebekah Bass crossed to the far post for Keira Ramshaw to strike just wide.
The Wearsiders stepped up their game and ripped Watford apart in a devastating nine-minute spell.
In the 20th minute, a left-wing corner was swung in by Kelly McDougall and centre-half Gemma Wilson powered in at the far post to head firmly past the helpless Shayla Burgess in the Watford goal.
Moments later, Vicki Greenwell floated in a corner from the right which caused panic in the visiting defence before being hacked clear.
Fine play involving Megan Beer, McDougall and Bass led to Abbey Joice forcing a good save from Burgess.
A Watford free-kick was comfortably held by Helen Alderson in what proved to be a brief respite as Sunderland extended their lead in the 27th minute.
As McDougall broke quickly from a deep position, she cleverly switched play and released Beth Mead to smash home from the edge of the box.
Before Watford had recovered, they fell further behind less than two minutes later.
Rachel Furness, a real powerhouse in the middle, linked well with McDougall to release Joice, who jinked her way past two defenders to drive a low shot beyond Burgess into the bottom corner.
Furness made a strong run through the middle to create a shooting chance but her effort went narrowly wide.
The game seemed safe for Sunderland as they grabbed a fourth goal in the 43rd minute. Great work between Furness, Ramshaw and Bass saw the ball played into the danger area and Mead pounced to score from close in.
At the start of the second half, the visitors broke quickly as Megan Wynne played in Sarah Wiltshire who tested Alderson with a smart effort.
Moments later it was Wiltshire again who sent in a stinging shot which Alderson did well to fist clear under pressure from Magda Mosengo.
Watford’s pressure did bring a goal though after 54 minutes.
Wiltshire had another effort beaten away but it fell kindly to Kate Natkiel, whose shot took a deflection through a crowded area to wrongfoot Alderson and creep in at the far post.
Sunderland almost responded immediately. Bass crossed for Mead on the edge of the box but her shot came back off the post.
Watford’s Beckett flashed an effort just off target from a well delivered free-kick before Furness charged down a clearance at the other end and carried it beyond two defenders to hit a great strike which Burgess did well to turn away for a corner.
Furness, Ramshaw and McDougall went close for Sunderland before Mosengo powered her way through before being halted by a great tackle from Wilson as she closed in on goal.
Beckett and Wiltshire saw further efforts beaten away before Mosengo missed a good chance, heading wide from close in.
Sunderland’s win puts them into the last 16 and today’s fifth round draw, when the Super League 1 teams enter the competition.
Sunderland: Alderson, Beer (Holmes), Bannon, Wilson, Greenwell, Bass, Joice, Furness, McDougall, Ramshaw (McHugh), Mead. Subs (not used): Laws, Hill.
H Durham also won through to the fifth round with a 3-1 win against Premier League North leaders Sheffield.