Mead seals home point

GOING DOWN: Sunderland striker Beth Mead is sent tumbling against Watford.
GOING DOWN: Sunderland striker Beth Mead is sent tumbling against Watford.
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BETH MEAD equalised twice to preserve Sunderland’s unbeaten record this season.

The visitors have now denied the Lady Black Cats twice – after the 2-2 draw at Watford earlier in the campaign.

The point, though, extends Sunderland’s lead at the top of the Premier League to five points ahead of nearest rivals Leeds United and Aston Villa.

In cold conditions, both sides took some time to get going, with Watford looking very well organised and intent on stifling the home side.

With Sunderland making little impression, the visitors began to grown in confidence and should have taken the lead on 19 minutes.

A defence-splitting pass led to Kate Natkiel bending a deep cross to the unmarked Josie Green, who from five yards out somehow fired wide.

The warning was not heeded as minutes after, Jo Wilson beat the offside trap only to be denied by keeper Rachael Laws.

Sunderland midfielder Rachel Furness tried her hardest to take the game by the scruff of the neck, and went close with a 30-yard pile-driver.

The visitors broke the deadlock on 34 minutes when Sarah Wiltshere broke through the home defence and squared to Jo Wilson, who fired home.

It did not take long for Sunderland to get back on level terms. Captain Steph Bannon sent in a cross from the right and Mead acrobatically fired past the Watford keeper.

The visitors had the chance to regain the lead before the break when Wiltshere was played in, but centre-back Gemma Wilson was there to clear.

At the start of the second half, Furness tested Laura Davey with another strike from distance, but the keeper tipped the ball onto the bar.

Watford went ahead again when the nippy Wilson had the composure to round Laws and slot home just after the hour mark.

Manager Mick Mulhern responded by making changes, replacing Nicola Devine and Wilson with Sophie Williams and Becky Salicki

Sunderland began to pile on the pressure with 15 minutes to go, as Watford defended in numbers. Keira Ramshaw and Natalie Gutteridge had attempts that were blocked and though Sophie Williams was a threat on the left, Watford were still looking solid.

However, the pressure finally told as a deep ball from Bannon was touched on by McDougall, and Mead was there to slot home her second goal of the day.

The game was there to be won in the dying minutes. Furness once again tried from distance, but her effort swerved just past the post. And just before the final whistle, a teasing ball from Ramshaw was headed wide by a diving Gutteridge.

Sunderland: Laws, Holmes, Bannon, Wilson (Salicki) Greenwell, Ramshaw, Furness, McDougall, Devine (Williams) Gutteridge, Mead. Subs (not Used): Chidester, Christon, Sutcliffe.