Sunderland ready for crunch Doncaster clash

Rachael LawsRachael Laws
Rachael Laws
Sunderland Ladies goalkeeper Rachael Laws says an extended break has done her side the world of good as they prepare to face Doncaster Rovers Belles.

The Lady Black Cats haven’t played since the end of July and Laws believes that the time off has allowed Sunderland to regroup and prepare for the trip to the Keepmoat Stadium.

It will be a vital game for Carlton Fairweather’s side as they travel to face the Belles, who are currently propping up FA WSL1 without a point to their name.

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While Sunderland are six points clear of their rivals, Emma Coates’ side have three games in hand, making the meeting between the two vitally important.

And Laws believes that an advantage could be the month-long break enjoyed by the Black Cats while Doncaster have been in regular action.

“I think the extended break has done a lot of good for us,” she said.

“We’ve been able to go into a lot of detail, which could give us an advantage.

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“We’ve watched Doncaster’s game from the weekend (at Liverpool) and they played well and were only beaten by one.”

As well as giving them time to prepare tactically, the break has given the Lady Black Cats time to gel as a squad with trips to a boxing gym and adventure assault course.

This, says Laws, has seen the side develop a closer bond than ever.

“The break gave us time to get together which is just as important as working on our game.

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“Good camaraderie off the pitch helps on it and spirits are high, probably as high as they have been this season. That should stand us in good stead for the game.”

The two sides have already met twice this season – Doncaster winning 2-1 in the Continental Tyres Cup before the Black Cats ran out 4-0 winners in the league in the league after the visitors had a player sent off in the fist half.

The previous meetings, and the level of detailed preparation Sunderland have gone into, gives Laws a good idea of her opponents.

But the stopper insists that the focus is purely on what her own team-mates can do.

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“We’re expecting them to be defensively well-packed,” she said. “They’ve played a diamond midfield in the last few games and we’ve worked on that.

“But I think it’s more about what we can bring.”

Laws says Sunderland will be taking nothing for granted despite their previous big win against the Belles.

“We beat them 4-0 earlier in the year and, even though they had a player sent off, I believe we were strong enough to beat them regardless of that,” she said.

“It’s a big game and we need points as much as them.”