Sunderland Ladies round off promising first season with entertaining 2-2 draw with Bristol City

Sunderland Ladies rounded off a promising first season back in the Women’s Championship with an entertaining 2-2 draw with Bristol City at Eppleton CW.

Substitute Jess Brown’s headed in a late equaliser as the hosts fought back to claim a point after Mel Johnson and Ffion Morgan had cancelled out Keira Ramshaw’s first-half opener.

The Black Cats will feel they had the better of a pulsating contest but will be pleased to finish the season on a high against one of the second tier’s strongest sides.

With Abby Towers and Maria Farrugia ruled out through injury, head coach Mel Reay took the opportunity to rotate her squad bringing in Alison Cowling, Grace Ede and Libbi McInnes.

Sunderland Ladies rounded off a promising first season with an entertaining 2-2 draw with Bristol City. Picture: Chris Fryatt.

Both teams felt their way into the game early on without really testing each other, but Ramshaw was on the spot to put Sunderland in front on 15 minutes. Emma Kelly’s whipped freekick from wide caused havoc in the Robins’ box and Sophie Whitehouse parried the ball straight to the skipper who nodded in from close range.

Determined to get last week’s poor Wearside Derby performance against Durham out of their system they pushed forward but Kelly curled a shot past the upright and Megan Beer also missed the target with a powerful drive.

There was a flurry of chances at the other with Abi Harrison failing to hit the target before Satara Murray headed the visitors’ best chance off the woodwork from Morgan’s corner. Cowling then pulled off an outstanding reaction save to deny Brooke Aspin who pounced on the rebound.

But within five minutes of the restart, City were level. Morgan swung in a cross from the left and Johnson gave Cowling no chance with a close-range header.

Sunderland should have regained the lead seconds later, Scarr bursting through onto Kelly’s pass but firing well over.

The miss would be punished the game turned upside down on the hour as the away side doubled their lead. Chloe Bull’s shot was superbly kept out by Cowling, but the ball fell perfectly at the feet of Morgan at the far post who easily slotted into the net.

Reay called on Holly Manders and Brown from the bench to inject more pace into Sunderland’s attacks, and the changes paid off as the former released Scarr down the left whose cross was turned home by the latter to spark wild celebrations among those in red and white.

They could, and probably should, have won as the clock ticked down – Manders blasted straight at Whitehouse and Grace McCatty chipping narrowly over the bar – but the point and performance was enough to send the 500-plus crowd home happy, and cement a top 10 finish for a young squad who have more than proved they could make the step up from the National League Northern Premier.

Sunderland: Cowling; Griffiths, Herron, McCatty, Beer; Kelly, Joice, Ramshaw ©, McInnes (Brown 73’), Ede (Manders 73’); Scarr

Subs: Moan, Mullen, Boyes, Blakey, Watson.