Stephanie Roche believes a WSL1 showdown with Liverpool will bring out the best in Sunderland Ladies, writes Roy Kelly.
The Lady Black Cats return to top-flight action tomorrow with the visit of the Reds to Hetton.
Sunderland have not made a bad start to the 2016 programme, with three draws against Reading (1-1 home and away) and Liverpool (2-2) with just one defeat, 2-0 to Manchester City at the Eppleton CW ground.
Roche rates the display on Merseyside as the best to date as Carlton Fairweather’s side came back from 2-0 down to clinch a point.
The side could, and should, have taken a victory with Sunderland denied a stonewall penalty when Brooke Chaplen was scythed down in the area.
But Roche saw promise at Widnes which can be taken into tomorrow night’s game (kick-off 7.30pm).
“The Liverpool game is the best example that we have the ability to keep the ball and play football,” said the Republic of Ireland star, who says retaining possession is vital.
“Now we have to do that on the grass at Hetton.
“When we have the ball, we need to keep it. The worst thing is when we lose it we are back on the defensive again.
“As a team, we need to get used to having the ball and being comfortable with it.”
Sunderland are currently a quarter of the way through the league programme and are in seventh position.
Tomorrow’s game is their third at home and the first since a 2-0 defeat to title favourites Man City, in front of a 1,400-plus crowd.
The Lady Black Cats are looking for their first win and Roche senses it’s coming.
“We’ll be looking to kick on,” said the 26-year-old, who had two of the best openings in the defeat to the Sky Blues.
“We have had chances, but didn’t really finish them.
“We need to be more clinical in front of goal, but if we keep the ball better then we’ll get more chances.
“Overall, we have only lost once and got something from the other three matches so we can’t be disheartened.”