Sunderland Ladies face vital Continental Cup match at Doncaster Rovers

Sunderland Ladies have more pressing matters than the Continental Cup.

Saturday, 2nd July 2016, 10:00 am
Beth Mead is held back by the Chelsea defence in the midweek defeat. Picture by FRANK REID

But the Lady Black Cats face a crucial first-round trip tomorrow to Doncaster Rovers Belles (kick-off 2pm).

Carlton Fairweather’s team are in serious trouble in the Women’s Super League – a far cry away from this time 12 months ago when they were flying high.

Sunderland are second bottom in the WSL1 table without a win to their name and only three points better off than basement side Doncaster, who have four games in hand.

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It looks increasingly likely that the battle for top flight survival will come down to a fightbetween the Belles and the Lady Black Cats.

Sunderland’s WSL1 game with Rovers is the next match at Eppleton CW, on Saturday, July 9, and it’s one they cannot afford to lose.

Therefore, tomorrow’s Continental Cup tie at Sheffield FC’s ground, in Dronfield, assumes greater importance as Fairweather acknowledges.

“The next batch of games will hopefully be a turning point,” said the head coach.

“Tomorrow gives us a chance to put a marker down and hopefully score a couple of goals to give the team lift.”

Fairweather is facing the hardest test of his coaching career, tactically and psychologically.

He must raise the spirits of a team who are struggling in all areas, having conceded 10 goals in the last two games and scored only one in reply.

There was no lack of effort in Wednesday’s 5-0 loss but Fairweather was upset at the way the game was over by half-time.

“It was a hard one to take, but it’s the way we gave away the goals which was frustrating,” he said. “We were 1-0 down five minutes from half-time and then concede two in a couple of minutes.

“You’ve got to remember we are playing a talented Chelsea side, full of internationals and full-time professionals – that’s what we’re competing against.

“We need to instill some confidence in the girls for this match.

“But at the end of the day, it’s about the players believing in their ability.”

Fairweather hopes Beth Mead shakes off a knock to her knee, which forced her off late in Wednesday’s defeat, to lead the attack tomorrow.

Winter signing Lucy Staniforth, who missed the Chelsea match with a knee problem, could return.