Sunderland WFC manager Mick Mulhern has described Sunday’s clash with Manchester City as a ‘must-win’ if the Lady Black Cats are to continue their push for the FA Women’s Premier League title.
Mulhern’s side dropped to second in the table after last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at Charlton Athletic having previously occupied top spot since the opening day of the season.
Sunday’s defeat was the ladies’ first league reverse in 18 months and left Mulhern’s side trailing Watford by one point, though they do have a game in hand.
However, Mulhern says the extra fixture is irrelevant and they must start winning games now if they are to maintain a push for the title.
“I was disappointed with the manner of the result at Charlton,” Mulhern said.
“We were well on top and pushing for a winner but then we gave penalty away in the last minute and it was just too late to recover from that.
“It’s the second time this season we have done that which is disappointing.”
The ladies boss, who is in his 14th year with the Lady Black Cats, has, however, defended his girls after a run of international call-ups and injuries left his squad thin.
“I suppose we have to put the defeats into context, in the sense that two were cup defeats and, in particularly the Liverpool defeat, we weren’t favourites as they are a Super League side,” he explained.
“In the case of Leeds we were favourites but the impact of injuries has hit the squad hard for the last month to six weeks.
“I think it probably caught up with us by the time of the Charlton game.”
Sunderland host fourth-placed Manchester City this weekend and Mulhern expects another tough game for his injury-hit side despite beating City in their two previous encounters.
He did, however, confirm that midfielder Kelly McDougall will return at the weekend although Rachel Furness and Natalie Gutteridge are set to miss the remainder of the campaign.
“It’ll be a tight game and one we can’t afford not to win,” Mulhern added.
“They’re well organised and we’ve played them twice already this season so we know what they’re about.
“We’ve lost Rachel [Furness] and Natalie [Gutteridge] to injury for the season which is a big disappointment as they are the heart of our midfield.
“It’s good to have Kelly McDougall back as she is also a key part of our midfield.”
Sunday’s game kicks off at 2pm and all supporters are welcome at Eppleton CW – if you can’t get down to the game, follow @SunderlandWFC for updates.