Sunderland Ladies suffer late heartbreak against Stoke as Mel Copeland focuses on the long-run

FA Womens League Football between Sunderland Ladies and Stoke City Ladies, played at Eppleton CW, Hetton-le-Hole.
FA Womens League Football between Sunderland Ladies and Stoke City Ladies, played at Eppleton CW, Hetton-le-Hole.
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Sunderland Ladies’ manager Melanie Copeland was ‘disappointed’ to lose at the death against ‘physical’ Stoke, but believes the Women’s National League North is a ‘marathon, not a sprint’.

Stoke’s Amy Hughes completed a lightning fast start, the striker prodding home in the opening minute after a mistake by goalkeeper Sophy Stonehouse.

Sunderland equalised almost immediately through Bridget Galloway, but conceded again minutes later after Ashleigh Hayes got in behind the Black Cats defence.

“We started off really badly,” Reay said.

“It was 1-1 after four minutes. They were very direct and we needed to settle down.

“Conceding so early gave us a mountain to climb.”

Midfielder Young Anna Young levelled the scores once more before Emily Owen sent visiting fans into raptures with the winning goal right at the death.

Right back Louise Griffiths replaced Megan Beer in Sunderland’s only change to the starting 11 which triumphed 8-0 over Nottingham Forest two weeks ago.

Questions will be asked of Stonehouse after a first minute blunder gifted Stoke an early lead, Hughes reacting well fire a shot to fire in at close range.

But Sunderland showed great character to instantly fight back, captain Kiera Ramshaw won the ball in midfield and played it to winger Jordan Atkinson, who put the ball on a plate for Galloway to cooly finish.

Stoke weren’t to be deterred, however, Hayes nipped in behind Sunderland’s defence after a long punt up field and found the bottom corner of the net.

A crazy opening 10 minutes was complete when Young rounded ‘keeper Molly Brunton to draw Sunderland level again following a deft Griffiths cross

Substitutions Katie Barker and Georgia Gibson were unable to turn the game in Sunderland’s favour with Owen breaking Mackem hearts in stoppage time after she turned the ball in to Stonehouse’s net following a chaotic goalmouth scramble.

The result leaves the Black Cats third, six points behind leaders Blackburn Rovers who have a game in hand.

“It’s a marathon not a sprint, obviously three points have been dropped, but we just have to take each game as it comes and hopefully we’ll be there or there abouts at the end of the season,” Reay added.