Season So Far: Mel Reay on table-topping Lasses start

Mel Reay has given her thoughts on the early stages of Sunderland Ladies’ first season back at FA Women’s Championship level.

The Lasses sit top of the table having taken seven points from their opening three matches, and the Ladies Head Coach has spoken of the positive opening to the campaign.

“We’re absolutely delighted with the start to this season back in the Championship,” Reay said.

“We weren’t quite sure what to expect coming into the season, but the girls have worked extremely hard physically and from a technical point of view, they’ve done exactly what we’ve asked of them on the pitch.

“The gameplans and preparation have been spot on, so they’ve set the bar high – those standards have to be maintained. We’re taking it one game at a time, but at the moment we’re in a really good place.”

Sunderland started the season with back-to-back wins over Coventry United and Blackburn Rovers, before holding Crystal Palace to a draw at Selhurst Park prior to the international break.

Reay has opened up on the variety of challenges already faced, and those that will be faced in the coming months.

“The challenges we’ve faced in the opening three games have been different in their own ways. We’ve set up slightly differently for all three and we’ve asked them to carry out different objectives within the games.

“I suppose that will be the theme throughout the season – you have to do your research on each opponent and the girls then have to put that into action.

“It’s important to be confident and back ourselves. We’ve gathered some momentum and we believe we can compete at this level. Our job as staff is to help them keep their feet on the ground and keep pushing them to improve. There’s still a lot of improvement to be had, and we want to finish as high as we can.”

With the Lasses’ four league goals so far each being scored by a different player and with just one goal conceded, Reay noted the specific positives both defensively and going forward.

“Defensively we’ve been really strong and kept two clean sheets – again, that breeds confidence throughout the team. That isn’t just defenders or goalkeepers, it’s all over the team, defending from the front and working really hard as a unit.

“We spoke before the season about goals needing to be spread amongst the team – we can’t just rely on one player to score goals – so we’re delighted that the goals are coming from all over the pitch so far.”

Over the international weekend, the Lasses have had three players called up to represent their nations – Maria Farrugia has been with Malta’s senior squad, whilst Neve Herron and Libbi McInnes were again called up for England Under-19s and Under-18s respectively.

“Ultimately, these girls have been selected because they’re doing well for their club – again, that’s a real positive,” Reay said.

“They’re still young players and still learning. It benefits them to be going away and playing against different opposition in different places, learning new styles and new things about the game. We then expect them to bring that back to their club football to continue their development.”

Next up for the Ladies is a return to the Stadium of Light against Lewes this Sunday afternoon (KO 2pm), with ticket details to be finalised shortly, as Reay calls on a healthy crowd to come and support the Lasses as they look to stay at the summit.

“The Stadium of Light certainly isn’t a bad second ground to play at! We’re delighted to be back there again and hopefully we can get a decent crowd behind us – it made a real difference when we played Blackburn there.

“Lewes are a good side – they’ve been in the league for a couple of years, so we’ll do our research and we’ve got plenty of time to plan for the game.”

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