Lucy Staniforth’s double ensured a relatively routine win for Sunderland Ladies against Aston Villa in last night’s FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup group tie.
The midfielder was once again the shining light for the hosts at Mariners Park in South Shields, scoring a superb strike to give her side the half-time lead.
The first half was one of few chances as the visitors seemed content to sit and counter at pace.
That allowed Sunderland time on the ball but very little space around the box.
Staniforth had a 27th-minute shot from range tipped on to the bar by Villa keeper Sian Rogers.
But the opening goal followed seconds later as Staniforth crossed to the back post with the ball finding its way into the back of the net.
Keira Ramshaw fired a 42nd-minute strike straight at Rogers after finding acres of space in behind the Villa defence.
With only a goal between the sides, the visitors were still in with a shout.
But those hopes were dashed by the boot of Staniforth as she turned inside the area and effortlessly scored a second goal in the 57th minute.
Sub Dominique Bruinenberg hit a superb strike from the edge of the box into the top corner for 3-0, with 12 minutes to go, before Ashlee Brown netted a Villa consolation in stoppage time.
Sunderland match-winner Staniforth was pleased to get back to winning ways after the 4-1 WSL loss to Liverpool.
She said: “We were disappointed on the back of the Liverpool game, but we knew we were going to get more chances and we’ve taken them.
“It’s a comfortable win in the end and a professional job from the team.
“I’m always wanting us to improve because the ability of player in front of goal, we should be scoring more.
“But it’s another step in the right direction and it’s great to see Dominique Bruinenberg get on the scoresheet because I know she has been chomping at the bit to get that first goal for Sunderland. A lot of the work we are doing on the training pitch – finishing drills – are paying off.
“Three goals in a week – It’s these new boots!
“I’m glad it’s not just penalties I am scoring this year! I like to try to get in as difficult a position to mark as possible. I did that a few times in the game.”
Sunderland have five points at the top of the group, thanks to last night’s win and the bonus point secured from their opening 0-0 draw with Durham Women.
Sunderland Ladies (3-5-2): Laws; Williams, Sharp, Stewart; Brown (Koren 77), Wyne, Lipka, Staniforth, Sjoman (Barker 86); Joice (Bruinenberg 70), Ramshaw. Subs: Lambert, Stonehouse, Young, Warren. Booked: Ramshaw 41. Goals: Staniforth 28, 57, Bruinenberg 78
Aston Villa: Rogers, Crackle (Johnson 80), Jones, N’Dow, Richards, Hassall, Hurley, Welsh (Brown 77), Jewitt (Hutton 51), Merrick, Salmon. Sub not used: Ejupi. Goal: Brown 90
Ref: Rebecca Welch
* Durham Women were also in action in the cup, going down 5-1 to Sheffield Ladies, just days after beating the Yorkshire side 4-0 in WSL2.
Jordan Atkinson slammed home a low finish into the bottom corner to cut the deficit to 2-1 in the first half.
Durham keeper Helen Alderson said: “It’s just how football goes, we knew Sheffield would come out quick at us and massive credit to them for putting Sunday behind them and coming at us like they did.
“It was a good display by them and they fully deserved the victory.
“We have to move on now. Maybe it was good practice for me because it was the busiest I’ve been all season.”
England face Bosnia & Herzegovina in a FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier at Walsall on 24 November, KO 7.05pm. Buy tickets (£10 Adult/£1 Under-18) at www.thefa.com/tickets