SUNDERLAND are not about to start bandying the S-word about – but Saturday’s 3-0 win over Birmingham City has surely moved them three steps closer to safety.
The Lady Black Cats were relegation favourites to some pundits before a ball was even kicked in Women’s Super League.
But after six games – and three wins – they are as closer to the top than they are the bottom.
Carlton Fairweather’s side are fourth and are seven points clear of bottom club Bristol Academy.
Goalkeeper Rachael Laws, who led Sunderland on Saturday in the absence of injured skipper Steph Bannon, wants the squad to look up rather than down but stresses they are not safe yet.
“If we keep playing the way we are playing, we’ll pick up more points,” she told the Echo.
“In the same breath, Bristol will pick up points themselves and have already started doing that, they’ve drawn against Birmingham and Arsenal.
“But as long as we keep getting points then we’ll be OK this season.
“If someone had offered us fourth place and nine points by this stage of the season, we’d have bitten their hands off.
“I’m not going to say how many points we’d talked about before WSL 1 started, but it wasn’t this many!”
Laws described WSL1 as “unforgiving”, but says if Sunderland learn from the stuff that goes wrong they will emerge a stronger side.
“If you make mistakes in this league you get punished,” she said.
“We’ve been punished at Arsenal and Notts County, but we’ll learn and get better.
“This is our teething season, we’ll learn and grow.
“If we keep playing well, keep our shape, keep doing the basics right then hopefully we’ll go a long way.”
Sunderland certainly got the basics right against Birmingham, registering their first clean sheet of WSL1.
“It’s been a long time coming, we’re six games into the season now,” she said.
“I thought we were good defensively and we proved we can keep a clean sheet.”