SUNDERLAND Ladies face what could be a pivotal early season clash against Reading tomorrow in their home bow in the Women’s Super League.
The Black Cats enjoyed a perfect start to their WSL Division Two campaign on Thursday night after securing an impressive 4-2 victory over local rivals Durham.
But they are expected to encounter a sterner test at Eppleton Colliery Welfare tomorrow (kick-off 2pm) with Reading the visitors for Sunderland’s opening home game.
Sunderland and the Royals - managed by former Arsenal midfielder Jayne Ludlow, who won the league title 11 times in 13 years with the Gunners - were tipped as the pre-season promotion favourites.
And after Reading – who are now fully professional - beat Yeovil 3-0 in their opening WSL encounter, Sunderland head coach Claire Robinson realises there is plenty riding on tomorrow’s game, even though it is at such a tender stage of the campaign.
Robinson said: “You’ve got to respect Jayne Ludlow. She was a dedicated player, so she’ll probably instil that in her players.
“We’ll certainly be up for that challenge because the next game is the important one now.
“We have to look at each game as it comes and make sure we recover from Durham.
“It will be a big game against Reading.
“I think it’s how players and staff deal with that pressure.
“People have expectations and that can become negative, but we’ll go with a good gameplan.
“But these are the the games that will probably be important for us.”
More than 700 spectators watched Sunderland’s visit to Durham’s New Ferens Park on Thursday and Robinson is hoping for a similar attendance at Eppleton.
“It was a great crowd at Durham on Thursday, so let’s hope we get similar again tomorrow,” she added.
“It really shows the passion for football in the North East.
“Hopefully both clubs can build on that support.”
Goalkeeper Rachael Laws was stretchered off on Thursday night after a collision, but fortunately the injury turned out to be no worse than bad bruising to her foot.
She is a doubt for tomorrow’s game, with Helen Alderson standing by to start if needed.
Tomorrow’s game is free to all Sunderland season card holders, on production of a valid season ticket.
General admission is priced at £4 for adults and £1 for concessions.