League leaders see off Villa.
Sunderland WFC maintained their 100% record at the top of the National Premier League with a hard-fought win over Aston Villa on Sunday.
Kelly McDougall’s penalty midway through the first half set Sunderland on their way at Eppleton CW before Keira Ramshaw doubled the advantage.
Villa’s Katie Wilkinson reduced the arrears with a fine free-kick six minutes from the end, but Mick Mulhern’s side held on for victory.
Sunderland have now racked up a goal difference of plus-14 in just four games but faced their toughest test yet against a determined Villa outfit.
The sides traded chances in the opening exchanges but it was Sunderland who made the breakthrough with 22 minutes played.
Beth Mead raced clear only to be upended by Villa keeper Megan Walsh, leaving McDougall to stroke home the penalty.
Mead came close on two occasions in the closing stages of the first period, again breaking through only to shoot wide before skimming the crossbar with a dipping effort.
The action continued to swing from end to end in the second period, with McDougall coming closest for the hosts when her audacious lob cleared the crossbar.
The Lady Black Cats extended their lead with 20 minutes to go as Ramshaw volleyed home McDougall’s cross in fine style.
Villa did net what turned out to be only a consolation when Wilkinson’s free-kick beat Rachael Laws, who was injured in a collision moments later and replaced by Helen Alderson.
But Sunderland stayed strong to claim their fourth successive win and strengthen their early grip on the league lead.
Manager Mulhern said afterwards: “This was a real test as Villa are a strong side with a direct style.
“We coped admirably and I’m proud of the players and the way they coped with a style of play we don’t come across every week. The girls showed great character.”
Sunderland: Laws (Alderson), Holmes, Bannon, Wilson, Greenwell, Ramshaw, McDougall, Caldwell, Williams, Gutteridge, Mead.