Sunderland Women celebrate unbeaten 2012!

Kelly McDougall shoots.
Kelly McDougall shoots.
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SUNDERLAND completed a calendar year without defeat in the League as they romped to victory against Portsmouth.

The Lady Black Cats’ last defeat in the FA Women’s Premier League was back in October, 2011 – and they quickly put yesterday’s game to bed with a sizzling first-half display which brought six goals.

The only defeat in 2012 – a year in which Sunderland won a second successive league title and also the League Cup – came back in March when they went down 4-0 to Super League side Birmingham in the FA Cup.

With the season at the halfway stage, Sunderland now have 23 points from a possible 27 and lead the table by five points from nearest challengers Watford.

The home side began brightly in the sunshine at Hetton yesterday with Keira Ramshaw and Beth Mead both going close in the opening few minutes.

Becky Salicki then combined with Abby Holmes to set up Rachel Furness, who fired just over from the edge of the box.

The home side took the lead after seven minutes following a break down the left. Natalie Gutteridge played in Mead to set Ramshaw clear and her strong drive went under keeper Sadie Blakely.

It was 2-0 five minutes later. Sixteen-year-old Abbey Joice, making her first start for the side, linked well with Ramshaw before laying the ball into the path of Furness, who hit a thunderous effort from 25 yards past a helpless Blakely.

Joice and Ramshaw had efforts beaten away before a great cross from Kelly McDougall found the head of Mead, but her diving effort went narrowly wide.

Mead was not to be denied, however, when, following good work from Furness, the young forward hit a crisp strike into the bottom right-hand corner from the edge of the area in the 24th minute.

Sunderland were now rampant, playing the sharp, fluent football which had deserted them recently and it was no surprise when they extended their lead after 32 minutes.

Following a left-wing corner which was partially cleared, McDougall swung the ball back in for the stretching Ramshaw to hit home her second at the far post.

The impressive Joice linked well again with McDougall to set up Ramshaw again, but her effort lifted just over the bar.

Mead picked up the ball in midfield to run strongly through on goal and, despite several challenges, she drove the ball under the advancing keeper for her second and Sunderland’s fifth of the game after only 37 minutes.

Pompey’s miserable half ended with another goal conceded, this time McDougall shooting past the despaiRing keeper.

In the second half, Joice almost marked her first start with a goal but had a shot turned around the post by the keeper.

The final goal arrived after 65 minutes when Mead cleverly beat her marker to cross for Natalie Gutteridge to powerfully head home from close in.

An effort from Cox failed to trouble Sunderland keeper Rachael Laws before a swift break from Mead down the right resulted in Jordan Atkinson chipping the ball narrowly over the bar.

McDougall’s cheeky back-heeled effort nearly caught the visitors out soon after, but the keeper recovered well to save.

Sunderland had a late scare when a Pompey free-kick from McGee was tipped onto the bar by Laws. A weak back pass was then intercepted by Cox, who threaded the ball across an unguarded goal, but Bannon and Salicki managed to scramble the ball clear.

Sunderland’s next game is at home to Manchester City on Sunday, January 6.

Sunderland: Laws, Holmes (Christon), Bannon, Salicki, Greenwell, Ramshaw, Furness, McDougall, Joice, Gutteridge (Atkinson), Mead. Subs not used: Wilson, Caldwell, Chidester.