Sunderland keeper aiming for strong defence

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RACHAEL Laws hopes a settled defence can form the bedrock of Sunderland establishing themselves in the Women’s Super League.

Laws is one of England’s top stoppers and will be the last line of defence for the Lady Black Cats when they start their WSL1 programme at Liverpool tomorrow night.

The 24-year-old believes the combination of a back four of Abby Holmes, Steph Bannon, Hayley Sharp and Vicki Greenwell, with Laws behind them, has been pivotal to Sunderland’s success.

Sunderland won WSL2 last season but their defence is likely to be tested considerably more this year in the top league.

So will having the same back five help the Cats in the eight-team elite?

“Definitely,” said the keeper. “It’s better than going into a game with a different defence.

“Everyone knows how each other plays, it’s good that we understand each other.

“It helps me as well knowing the people in front of me know what each other is doing.

“It also helps the people in front of them too.

“We are doing well and hopefully us as a back five will stick together and hopefully keep a few clean sheets.”

Laws knows the magnitude of task ahead of Sunderland more than most.

The Wearsider spent a stint at Liverpool two seasons ago on loan, helping the Reds clinch the WSL1 crown, making 12 appearance.

But the Roar columnist says Sunderland will be giving it their best shot this season.

“We have to be realistic, our aim is to stay up this season,” she told the Echo.

“But I’d like to think we’ll cause some surprises.

“Our players are relishing the fact we are playing the two-time champions.

“Liverpool are very good, but what better way to start to test yourself against a team who have won the league twice?

“We’ll look to grab the opportunity with both hands and hopefully do ourselves proud.”

Sunderland are starting the campaign with a new head coach – Carlton Fairweather having taken over in the winter following Mick Mulhern’s departure.

Fairweather has had a hard act to follow, but the former Wimbledon star has made an impressive start.

While it’s ‘only’ pre-season, the results have been promising, winning three friendlies, drawing two and losing only one.

“It’s been a change but it’s a very good change,” Laws explained. “Carlton has slotted in seamlessly and the girls are all used to him now.

“I think it can only get better.”