Lucy Staniforth says Sunderland Ladies are not scared of tackling Arsenal in their first home match of the WSL1 Spring Series.
The Lady Black Cats, buoyed by last Sunday’s goalless draw in their opener, at FA Cup finalists Birmingham City, take on the Gunners at Hetton tomorrow (kick-off 2pm).
Sunderland suffered a torrid time in 2016 at the hands of the Londoners who completed a treble over the Wearsiders.
However, Staniforth, starting her second year at the club, has faith in her team ahead of the clash at the Eppleton CW ground.
“Arsenal is a tough game, but most are in WSL1,” said the gifted midfielder. “But the way we’ve stared the season, we’re not scared.
“Things are really positive here, we’re a different side to last year.
“We’re a lot harder to beat now.
“We’ve established a structure, a way of playing, and we want to put that into practice in the Spring Series.
“Las Sunday was a good performance and result.
“A clean sheet always breeds confidence - we’re in a good place and the ability to keep the ball out of our goal is a big thing.
“I think there is a pride in our defensive displays and this is a chance for us to test that.
“We frustrated an in-form team in Birmingham and caused them problems, so it has been a positive start.”
Few pundits would have tipped Sunderland to have begun with a point given their difficulties last season and the loss of some star names like Brooke Chaplan, Rachel Furness and Beth Mead before a ball was even kicked in 2017.
But Sunderland have made some good acquisitions from the continent, keeper Anke Preuss and midfielder Dominique Bruinenberg, as well as re-signing American striker Beverly Leon.
Staniforth, who has started the season well in the middle of the park, says the Lady Black Cats are a better team.
“It is not about the individual at Sunderland,” said the ex-Liverpool player. “It’s a collective effort.
“We’ve lost a few players but we’ve actually strengthened the team and subs.
“We’re all in it together, and if we stick to the game-plan and work hard for each other, we’ll actually be a force.”