Womens football : Sunderland power to the top

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SUNDERLAND Women powered to the top of FA Premier League with a thumping victory over Blackburn Rovers.

The 4-1 win moved Sunderland level with Rovers, but ahead on goal difference.

The early stages, though, showed that home side would not have it all their own way, as Rovers pressed forward with Katie Anderton testingm keeper Helen Alderson.

At the other end, Sophie Williams spurned a chance with a weak shot after being released by Kelly McDougall.

Natalie Gutteridge then controlled well to release Williams but this time she was denied by a great tackle by Rhiannon Roberts.

On the half hour, McDougall combined with central midfield partner Rachel Furness for Keira Ramshaw to bring a fine save from Krystal Parker in the visitors’ goal.

The Wearsiders had taklen a grip by now and went ahead on 33 minutes when Abby Holmes brought the ball strongly out of defence then released McDougall, who split the defence with a ball to Williams. The striker raced clear, and cleverly beat the stranded Parker with a superb chip. Blackburn were still pressing, though, and almost grabbed an equaliser when Turner beat the offside trap only for Alderson to make a great stop.

Sunderland extended their lead within a minute of the second half getting under way.

Ramshaw played in Williams, who worked it inside for McDougall to strike a fine shot over Parker and into the top corner from 20 yards out.

The visitors were still making a game of it though and pulled a goal back in the 53rd minute as Danni Sheen capitalised on a defensive slip to go clear and strike into the top corner.

Rovers’ hopes were only briefly raised though as Sunderland hit back straight from the kick-off. Demi Stokes streaked down the left wing before crossing from the byeline for Williams to slide the ball past the despairing Parker into the far corner.

The visitors’ heads dropped at this killer blow and McDougall and Williams both went close again. Then a Williams cross caused havoc in the Blackburn defence as an attempted clearance struck a defender before Parker grabbed the ball on the line.

The scoring was completed after 81 minutes when Vicki Greenwell brought the ball clear for Williams, who set McDougall free to round the keeper and score from an acute angle.

It was a fine overall performance built on a superb central defensive partnership of Gemma Wilson and skipper Steph Bannon, who limited the visitors to very few chances.

The win delighted manager Mick Mulhern. “A win was a really massive result for us. We haven’t been playing as well as we can and I asked the players for a response after last week’s disappointing display,” he said.

“To be fair, every one of them responded and did their jobs very well. Blackburn are a good side who were obviously top of the league on merit. So to win so well makes it all the more pleasing.”

Sunderland: Alderson, Holmes, Bannon, Wilson, Greenwell, Ramshaw(Christen), Furness, McDougall, Stokes, Williams (Proud), Gutteridge (McFadden). Subs (not used): Laws, Devine.