SUNDERLAND WOMEN extended their lead at the top of the National Premier League to five points after a hard-fought victory against third-placed Leeds Utd in blustery conditions at the Hetton Centre yesterday.
Only Nottingham Forest can catch Sunderland now, with both sides having three games left.
The game started brightly with both teams pushing forward at every opportunity. A good cross from Sophie Williams on the left was collected comfortably by keeper Draycott with Natalie Gutteridge waiting to pounce.
Rachel Furness just failed to connect following a left wing corner from Demi Stokes as Sunderland tried to press home an advantage.
Leah Galton was a constant threat for the visitors with a number of penetrating runs but there was no end product.
A good through ball by Kelly McDougall sent Stokes clear in the second half but she was crowded out.
A great run by Stokes on the left produced a cross which saw McDougall’s effort come back off the crossbar.
Sunderland made the breakthrough in the 72nd minute following a strong run on the right by Abby Holmes. As she ghosted past two Leeds defenders, she produced a great ball over the top for Stokes to run on to and calmly slide home from close in.
Moments later it should have been two when Furness turned sharply but her shot again hit the bar.
Sunderland: Laws, Holmes, Wilson, Bannon, Greenwell, Ramshaw, Furness, McDougall, Stokes, Gutteridge (Vaughan) Williams. Subs (not used): Salicki, Christon, McFadden, Halliday.
H Sunderland’s next game is at home to Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Sunday.