Kirsty Linnett scored a hat-trick as Sunderland Ladies ended their FA Women’s Super League campaign with a defeat at home to Birmingham City.
While the Lasses enjoyed a host of chances in the opening half hour, Kerys Harrop struck against the run of play as Birmingham went in front on 35 minutes.
From there the Black Cats never recovered and just seconds later it was 2-0 when Linnett pounced on Hilde Gunn Olsen’s error.
Charlie Wellings then added further salt to the wound as she scored Birmingham’s third goal in 10 minutes to put the game beyond doubt.
Two goals in eight second-half minutes saw Linnett seal her hat-trick before Beth Mead restored some pride for the Lasses with an exquisite solo effort from range.
Goals from Frida Ayisi and Coral Haines rounded off the scoring as the Lasses ended their campaign in disappointing fashion.
While both sides went into the game knowing their FA Women’s Super League One place was secure for another year, neither team showed signs of giving up in the opening exchanges.
Carlton Fairweather mentioned in his pre-match notes three points were on his radar as he wanted to end the campaign with a victory to round off what has largely been a hard fought season for the Lasses.
And as the Lady Black Cats targeted a winning end, Fairweather named an unchanged starting XI from last Saturday’s draw against Notts County. Starlet Olivia Watt started at right back while further young guns, Bridgett Galloway and Danielle Brown, started the night on the bench.
Birmingham began the game in the ascendancy but failed to really test Olsen who comfortably gathered Haines’ tame effort from the edge of the box.
For a side who went into the game having conceded just 12 league goals, Sunderland should’ve added to that as they found their feet in the end-to-end fixture.
Mead’s pace in behind Blues’ backline caused endless problems, and with 15 minutes on the clock the forward went over inside the box only for the referee to dismiss appeals for a penalty.
That left the Black Cats purring and moments later, Kelly McDougall’s defence splitting pass again saw Mead wheel way, good skill allowed her to breeze her way into the box before last weekend’s goalscorer Emma Kelly was denied by a decisive block six yards out.
Maddie Hill then raced through but credit to Sophie Baggeley who raced off her line, made herself big and denied the midfielder the first goal.
However, Sunderland were left to rue those chances as Birmingham struck twice in as many minutes to hold a commanding lead at Eppleton.
Skipper Harrop stabbed the ball home to open the scoring on 35 minutes after the Lasses failed to clear their lines before Olsen experienced a moment to forget as she got into a muddle with her clearance and allowed Linnett the chance to steal in and net a second.
Sunderland were rocked and hanging in the game by a thread as wave after wave of attacks crashed against their backline.
With the half-time whistle nearing, Kelly let fly with a rasping left-footed drive which forced Baggeley to tip the ball round the post but from the resultant corner Birmingham added a third.
The visitors raced away down the right flank and Wellings was on hand to tap the ball home at the back post.
Birmingham picked up where they left off at the start of the second period, Linnett bagged her second of the evening with a speculative strike from 30 yards which left Olsen rooted to her spot.
With the game gone, Fairweather introduced youngsters Brown and Galloway into the thick of the action to gain some further top-flight minutes to aid their development.
However, the game remained one way traffic and with 57 minutes on the clock Linnett sealed her hat-trick as he powerfully headed home a corner from the left.
But credit to Sunderland though because they never gave up and continued to work tirelessly despite Blues’ superior hold on the game.
Mead netted a consolation with a superb solo effort before Birmingham responded straight from kick off through Ayisi who restored the visitor’s five-goal cushion.
Haines finished off a neat Blues move with 13 minutes left on the clock as Birmingham inflicted a heavy defeat on the Lasses in the final match of the season.
Sunderland: Olsen, Holmes, Sharp, Bannon, Mead, Watt (Beer, 61), Joice, Kelly (Brown, 45), McDougall, Hill, Leon (Galloway, 53)
Subs not used: Laws, Ramshaw, Roche, Williams
Birmingham: Baggeley, Windell, Sargeant, Carter (Stringer, 59), Harrop, Linnett, Ewens (Hegerberg, 81), Lawley, Wellings (Ayisi, 59), Peplow, Haines
Subs not used: Berger, Mannion