Sunderland midfielder ready for title crunch

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SUNDERLAND Ladies midfielder Rachel Furness says it’s business as normal ahead of their title crunch on Sunday.

The Lady Black Cats and Women’s Super League 2 title rivals Doncaster Belles are both away in London on the final day of the season.

Sunderland take on Millwall Lionesses knowing a victory will give them a fourth successive league title, and the single promotion place to the top tier.

Belles, away to London Bees, trail by two points in the table but know that if they win – and Sunderland slip up - then they will reclaim the place in the top division that they lost last season on financial grounds.

Furness, though, says she and her Sunderland team-mates are treating the trip to Millwall as just another game that they are looking to win.

“We have trained and prepared the same way we have all season,” she said.

“We won’t change it now, so close to the end of the season, regardless of the game.

“If we prepare the same, mentally and physically, we will be ready like every other Sunday.”

The 26-year-old believes Sunderland will cope with the pressure, simply by focussing only on their own performance.

“I remember a few year back, we won the league at Cardiff on the last day. The game was tense but in difficult conditions we pulled through as a team and got the job done.

“The season coming down to the last day is obviously exciting for everyone involved in women’s football. But we will go about our business the same way we do every week and do what we can to get the three points wrapped up.

“Who doesn’t want to play at the highest level in women’s football? We all know what it means individually and collectively as a team, and we will use that come Sunday as we do every week.”

Sunderland had last weekend off as Doncaster won a game in hand to close in within two points at the top and take the title race to the wire.

The Belles had won 2-1 at Sunderland a fortnight before in front of a crowd of 1,200. Victory that night would have given Sunderland the title, but it was not to be.

“No one wants a weekend off so close to the end of the season,” said Furness. “We wanted to bounce on and get the game played, but all the girls have been training well, so I guess it’s another week’s good preparation for the upcoming game.

“I saw the half-time and full-time score from Doncaster on Sunday but to us, it’s just about us. We need to concentrate on ourselves – regardless of any other results, we know it’s in our own hands to get the job done.

“It was a great atmosphere when we played Doncaster and an exciting game, but we know we did not perform.

“That’s gone now and we look forward. A win is a win; it can be ugly but at the end of the day three points is what we strive for every week.

“We have a strong togetherness in the team, we pull each other through the good and the bad.

“I feel proud to play for Sunderland with such a great group of girls.

“I love pulling on that red and white shirt week-in, week-out. I expect a tough game on Sunday, but we will be fully prepared for it.”