SAFC Ladies 3 AFC Fylde Women 1 | Evening Chronicle

Sunderland AFC Ladies returned to winning ways in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division with a hard-fought win over early pacesetters AFC Fylde Women.

Veteran defender Grace McCatty opened Sunderland’s scoring inside two minutes, before Sadie Mitchell equalised for the visitors.

Youngster Neve Herron restored the Lasses’ lead before substitute Holly Manders put the result beyond doubt in closing stages.

Despite promising signs, Mel Reay’s new-look Lady Black Cats have struggled so far this term and were expecting another tough challenge from the table-topping Coasters.

The Lasses flew out of the blocks from the first whistle, Maria Farrugia seeing her effort well saved by Fylde goalkeeper Savannah Smith.

From the resulting corner Sunderland took the lead, the ball falling to McCatty on the edge of the box who found the top corner with a stunning curling shot.

The home side’s lightning start stunned Fylde into action, with Ellen Hollinshead and Natasha Webster testing Claudia Moan, before Eve Blakely saw her chance to double Sunderland’s lead denied by the post.

Unbeaten in their first four games, Fylde continued to search for an equaliser and found one just after the hour mark when Laura Merrin’s corner was volleyed in by Mitchell at the far post.

As the second half wore on, both sides missed opportunities to edge in front – Louise Griffiths narrowly shooting wide for the Lasses, as Webster and Jodie Redgrave both spurned clear chances at the other end.

Reay introduced Manders and Jessica Brown whose fresh legs made an immediate impact as Sunderland began pushing their opponents further into their own half.

With six minutes to go, Herron struck at the far post to claim what looked like the crucial winning goal, her second of the season.

The victory was put beyond doubt in the final minute as Abbey Joice won the ball in midfield and Manders skipped past two challenges before cooly slotting home past Smith

The Lasses now move up to eighth, with Sheffield FC next up at the Academy of Light on Sunday.

Sunderland: Moan, Beer, McCatty, Herron, Griffiths, Mullen, Ramshaw (c) (Brown ’67), Joice, Scarr, Farrugia, Blakey (Manders ’72).

Subs not used: Cowling, Warren, McInnes.