Melanie Reay praised the endeavour and work rate from her side as Sunderland Ladies advanced to the quarter-finals of the SSE Women’s FA Cup.
Aston Villa produced a stern test at Eppleton Colliery Welfare, twice cancelling out the Lasses lead to set up a grandstand finish in Hetton.
Appointed last week as the Lady Black Cats’ new head coach following Carlton Fairweather’s departure, Reay enjoyed a winning start to her tenure, courtesy of Lucy Staniforth’s match-winning penalty in the closing stages.
Victoria Williams broke the deadlock on the quarter-hour, finishing from close range after Staniforth’s free-kick was spilled by Villa’s keeper.
Natasha Baptiste responded, though, before Hayley Sharp restored the Lasses lead on the 35 minute, nodding home Beverley Leon’s sumptuous cross.
The Villian’s hit back for a second time four minutes into the second period, Lucy Shepherd showing create composure in a one-on-one situation to apply the finish past debutant stopper Anke Preuss.
However, there was to be a late twist in the tale as Reay’s side clinched the tie in the 86th minute.
Staniforth kept her cool to score from the penalty spot after a handball in the Villa box and secure the Ladies pathway into the next round.
Speaking post-match, Reay shared her pleasure to progress in the competition.
“I’m delighted because I thought it was really important that we got off to a winning start,” she smiled.
“It gives us a platform to build on for future games and I thought the youngsters that have come in played their part as well.
“I’m told they have worked hard over pre-season so they deserve their chance.
“More importantly, though, they contributed in the game at the end when we were under pressure so we are pleased with their efforts.
“We dropped deeper and deeper at the end as they finished strongly,” she continued.
“We hoped we wouldn’t concede and I think at that stage fitness paid its toll – we need to be much fitter.
“It was important to get through and we are pleased to have achieved that.”