Sunderland Ladies relishing the chance to go head-to-head with Chelsea - Hayley Sharp

Sunderland Ladies' Hayley Sharp, right, casts a close eye over proceedings in a recent match against Reading, at Mariners Park, South Shields.
Sunderland Ladies' Hayley Sharp, right, casts a close eye over proceedings in a recent match against Reading, at Mariners Park, South Shields.

Sunderland Ladies travel to title hopefuls Chelsea tomorrow night – and defender Hayley Sharp says they are relishing the test.

The Lady Black Cats will be keen to bounce back from defeat to Reading in their last outing, but face a stern test against a Chelsea side who lifted the Women’s FA Cup last weekend.

That 2-0 defeat to the Royals sees Sunderland sitting in seventh place in the top tier, with Bristol City and Everton breathing down their necks.

Meanwhile, Emma Hayes’ side are flying in the league with the Blues joint top having played a game less than rivals Manchester City.

Mel Reay’s side will travel to Kingsmeadow tomorrow (kick-off 7.45pm) looking to avenge Chelsea’s 6-0 victory at Mariners Park earlier this season.

That defeat means Sunderland will know all too well about the Londoners’ attacking threats – England international Fran Kirby has netted 16 times in 21 games, while Ramona Bachmann netted twice in the FA Cup final triumph.

But Sharp insists that her side are relishing the chance to face these players and are keen to prove that they can mix it with the best in the league.

“We want to compete with the best in the league and we take every game as it comes,” she admitted.

“Chelsea is going to be difficult, it is going to be tough, but we have got to turn up with the right attitude and hopefully come away with some points.

“It is a daunting task, but we battle because want to be in this league.

“We work hard. The girls are all singing off the same hymn sheet.

“We want to be there so what better way to show that than against the big dogs in the league.”

Elsewhere, Sunderland are likely to discover their long-term future in the FA Women’s Super League later this month.

The Black Cats announced that they would not submit an application for the new-look women’s pyramid in December and instead waited until March.

Clubs who submitted their applications in March – which include Premier League sides Manchester United and West Ham among others – are set to find out their fate at the end of this month.

Decisions are expected to be announced following the FA Women’s Premier League play-off which takes place on May 27.