'Added bonus': Sunderland boss Mel Reay looks ahead to a historic day at the Stadium of Light

Mel Reay says her side are looking forward to the 'added bonus' of playing in front of a Stadium of Light crowd as they look to build on an excellent opening-day performance.
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Sunderland started their Women's Championship campaign with a 1-1 against Durham Women, who are again strongly expected to challenge at the upper end of the table this season.

Reay handed a full debut to all five of her summer signings and all impressed, with Brianna Westrup adding the equaliser.

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Saturday sees the Stadium of Light play host to its first ever double-header, with Reay's side following Alex Neil after their game against Norwich City.

Sunderland boss Mel ReaySunderland boss Mel Reay
Sunderland boss Mel Reay

Reay's side kick off at 4pm, with all tickets for the first game eligible. Supporters can leave between the games and return, and can also buy a separate ticket for the women's game.

Reay says her team are determined to put on a show but can only do that by focusing on their performance and the game plan.

"We're looking forward to getting back on the pitch after a great result last Sunday, and it's just an added bonus for us that we're playing at the Stadium of Light," Reay said.

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"We're familiar with playing there but hopefully this time it will be in front of a bigger crowd.

"For us, it's just about controlling the controllables. We're not in control of how many people stay so we just need to make sure that we focus on doing our jobs properly and getting something from the game.

"If we do that, then it hopefully means that however many people stay back, they'll want to come back, because they will have enjoyed what they watched.

"We know that some of the fans might not have watched women's football before, there will be a difference, it will be a slower pace but these are technically good players and we really want to put on a show so that people enjoy it."

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Sunderland face another tricky fixture in what is a demanding start to the season, with Birmingham City having been relegated from the WSL last season.

City are now managed by former Black Cats midfielder Darren Carter.

The two sides met in the FA Cup earlier this year, with Birmingham needing extra time to edge past a spirited Sunderland side.

"On paper Durham was always going to be a really tough game, because especially with the first of the season you can never really know what to expect," Reay said.

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"It being a local derby adds a little bit more pressure, and even more so because we lost the two games last season. So I was absolutely delighted not just with the point but with the performance, because we probably had chances to take all three to be fair.

"So we're confident, and everyone is looking forward to Saturday.

"We played Birmingham in the FA Cup last season when they were a Super League team and matched them for 90 minutes, so we can take heart from that.

"Every game in this division is going to be tough, and you've got to turn up on the day and make sure you're the best version of yourself to get something from it."

Keira Ramshaw and Neve Herron remain absent, but Reay has no fresh injury concerns.