Sunderland Ladies have been hit by a double injury blow ahead of the Women’s Super League season.
The Lady Black Cats will be without forwards Steph Roche and Keira Ramshaw for Sunday’s trip to Reading.
Ramshaw should be fit to return for the first home WSL1 match against Chelsea a week on Saturday, which will now kick off at 7.30pm.
However, Roche is a long-term absentee after being injured in the Republic of Ireland’s 2-0 win over Northern Ireland on Tuesday.
“Steph fractured her tibia,” said head coach Melanie Reay. “She’ll be out for at least three months. Keira is not available, but she should be fit for Chelsea.
“She broke her nose and suffered a bit of concussion in our friendly against Sheffield.”
Meanwhile, Reay has been boosted by the return to fitness of Canadian left-back Kylla Sjoman. The Canada left-back has been missing since April 2016 with a serious knee injury.
The 30-year-old returned to to training in the summer but was absent for the entire Spring Series.
“Kylla got her first 90 minutes in on Sunday against Doncaster,” explained Reay. “After such a long time out it’s been a case of slowly integrating her back in the pre-season matches.”
Sunderland have needed to strengthen the defence following the retirement of Steph Bannon and the exit of Abby Holmes to Dutch side PEC Zwolle.
Ex-Blackburn defender Ellie Stewart looks set to slot in alongside Tori Williams and Hayley Sharp as the three-woman central combination.