Sunderland Women preserved their long, unbeaten run in yesterday’s top of the table clash, but took it to the wire against a tough tackling Leeds United.
In a game of contrasting halves, Leeds dominated the opening period and deservedly led through Clare Sykes.
It was all change in the second period as the Wearsiders stepped up and probed for an equaliser, which duly arrived from Beth Mead with just 90 seconds remaining to stay as clear favourites to land the FA Women’s Premier League title – they are two points clear of Watford with a game in hand and five ahead of Leeds.
Leeds pushed the visitors onto the back foot from the off and did not allow the leaders to settle into any rhythm.
Natalie Gutteridge went down following a strong challenge and had to be replaced by Sarah McFadden.
McFadden set Sophie Williams away, but her effort went wide, then she released Keira Ramshaw who crossed for Beth Mead to head wide.
McFadden stayed down following a tackle and had to be replaced by Ruth Sutcliffe and while she was off the field, Leeds grabbed the lead.
Former Sunderland player Rachel Lee, slotted a perfect ball through for Clare Sykes to run on to and she drew Laws out before calmly slotting home.
Sunderland came out fighting in the second half and Williams’ smart play freed McDougall to send in a shot which was brilliantly tipped over by Draycott.
Mead and Sutcliffe saw efforts go astray as the visitors were finding it hard to break down a stubborn home defence.
Just as it seemed that the Wearsiders’ unbeaten run was coming to an end they grabbed a deserved equaliser in the 89th minute. Steph Bannon launched a long free kick into the Leeds box and following a scramble, the ball was kicked off the line, but only to fall to Mead, who lashed it home from 18 yards out and send the visiting fans home happy.
Manager Mick Mulhern was relieve, saying: “I’ve got to say I’m happy with a point after our disappointing first-half display.
“We never got going and conceded when down to 10 players with a basic error. The display in the second half was far better and we deserved at least a point against a very well organised Leeds side.”
SUNDERLAND: Laws, Christon, Bannon, Salicki, Greenwell, Gutteridge (McFadden) (Sutcliffe), McDougall, Furness, Williams (Atkinson), Ramshaw, Mead. Subs: Alderson, Wilson.