Beth Mead scored a brace as Sunderland Ladies earned a crucial victory over Doncaster Rovers Belles in the FA Women's Super League.
After a quiet opening to the game, Leandra Little’s red card for a foul on Mead sparked the game into life.
With 34 minutes on the clock, Mead poked home from close range to break the deadlock before Hayley Sharp’s header doubled the Lasses advantage in the first-half.
Mead then bent a fine strike into the bottom corner on the stroke of half-time to round off a fine 45 minutes for the Lasses.
And Brooke Chaplen sealed victory in the second period with a curled effort as Sunderland clinched a huge three points in their season.
While defeat was endured in the Continental Tyres Cup last Sunday at Belles, Sunderland Ladies returned to the north east with renewed optimism after their fine display. With chances aplenty throughout that match, Carlton Fairweather called for the Lady Black Cats to rekindle their goalscoring touch and that saw Mead return to the side after being rested in the Cup tie.
A light sprinkling of rain covered the pristine pitch ahead of kick-off and that meant the ball began to slip wickedly off the surface in the early stages as Sunderland looked to get a foot hold in the game.
Chances were at a premium as neither side really looked to force the issue in the opening stages and it took until the 23rd minute for the game to explode into life…
Rachel Furness spotted Mead’s run in behind and just the striker went through on goal, Leandra Little felled the striker which left the referee with no option but to show Belles’ skipper a straight red card.
That saw the visitors reduced to 10 and caused a massive swing in momentum to go Sunderland’s way as the hosts really began to tighten their hold on the game.
Lucy Staniforth’s long-range drive caused Hobbs all kinds of problems and her indecisiveness invitingly spurred Mead to lash at the loose ball, however it’ll be an attempt the striker will want to forget quickly as she fired high over the bar.
But from there on in, the Lady Black Cats slowly penned Rovers deep into their own half and in the blink of an eye, Mead’s smart movement inside the area on 34 minutes handed Sunderland a well-deserved lead.
Maddie Hill’s one two with Chaplen down the right side saw her pick out Mead’s run to the near post, and the striker made no mistake from close range.
Four minutes later, Sharp doubled the Lasses advantage as she headed home Staniforth’s corner to hand the hosts a crucial two-goal cushion.
With their tails up and oozing confidence, Mead then showed her class once again as her quick thinking saw her curl a fine strike into the bottom corner from outside the area in first-half stoppage time to round off a rampant 45 minutes for the Lasses.
However, the second half began disastrously for the Lady Black Cats as two-goal hero Mead was stretcher off after a collision in the air saw her fall awkwardly.
Abbey Joice came on in her place and within minutes of entering the pitch almost added a fourth as her effort fizzed inches wide of the far post.
Sunderland continued to battle away and eventually notched their fourth when Chaplen curled a delicious strike into the top corner after a free flowing break to seal a very important three points.
FT: Sunderland 4-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Sunderland Ladies starting XI: Laws, Brown (Bannon, 64), Williams, Sharp, Holmes, Staniforth, Furness, Chaplen, Hill, Roche (McDougall, 81), Mead (Joice, 54)
Unused subs: Olsen, Potts, Beer.