Sunderland Ladies 5-2 Sheffield Ladies
Sunderland secured second place in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division with a comfortable win over Sheffield FC on the final day.
Bridget Galloway opened the scoring with a header nine minutes in before strikes from Niamh McLaughlin and Katie Barker gave the hosts a 3-0 first half lead.
Maria Farrugia added a fourth in the 53rd minute, however, Sheffield would pull two back as Milly Wortley scored on the hour mark and Emma Johnson late on.
Sunderland would add another though, Georgia Gibson finished off a fantastic move two minutes from time to seal a comprehensive victory.
The final day saw a three-way battle to take second, with Sunderland in pole position but needing a win to secure the spot. Derby County were the closest rivals, level on points but 28 goals behind. Huddersfield Town were also still in the fight but one point back.
Sunderland had a number of players back after travelling with only 11 last time out at Guiseley. However, the hosts would be missing captain and top goalscorer Keira Ramshaw through suspension and Grace McCatty through unavailability. Supporters’ Young Player of the Year, Mollie Lambert, took the armband.
The Lady Black Cats took the lead after nine minutes when Louise Griffiths’ pinpoint cross from deep on the right found the head of Galloway, who headed into the bottom corner for her 17th goal of the FAWNL season.
It would be two 25 minutes in for the Lasses as Barker worked hard to keep the ball on the right before cutting it back to McLaughlin. The Irish midfield let the ball run across her body, turning her marker and then firing into the top corner to double the lead.
Sheffield almost pulled one back four minutes later. Allison Cowling pulled off an excellent save to deny Lisa Giampalma, turning the striker’s volley from point blank range onto the crossbar.
This would allow Sunderland to go three goals clear in the 37th minute as roles were reversed from the second. McLaughlin calmly took possession in midfield before playing a reverse pass to Barker. Barker beat a couple of defenders before hitting a vicious effort, which moved in the air, high into the net from more than 20 yards out.
Farrugia got Sunderland off to a good start in the second half, firing in from just inside the box after Barker’s cut back eight minutes in.
Sheffield would have a bit of a resurgence from the hour mark onwards. Wortley got Sheffield’s first, finding an empty net from the edge of the area after Cowling made a good initial save but the rebound rolled for the visitors number 10.
They would add a second in the 85th minute. Johnson once again got the fortune of a rebound after Cowling made an excellent reaction save. Despite pushing the ball wide, Johnson would still get to the rebound and roll it home.
Sunderland would get back on top to round out the season. A minute after hitting the post, Gibson finished off a great move of one touch passing with a calm side foot effort, slotting the ball into the bottom corner.
Despite wins for both Derby and Huddersfield, Sunderland’s win would see them take second in their first season in the FAWNL, a great achievement for a young squad who had minimal pre-season.
Sunderland Ladies: Cowling, Mullen, Beer, Griffiths, Kemp, Lambert ©, McLaughlin, Farrugia (Young 74’), Barker (Hutchinson 74’), Gibson, Galloway
Subs not used: Stewart, Warren, Skull
Sheffield Ladies: S. Clarke, Housley © (Butcher 71’), Giampalma, Wortley, M. Clarke, Heald (Harvard 46’), Conroy, Tinsley, Johnson, Lord-Mears, Clarkson (Hawcroft 77’)
Subs not used: N/A