Sunderland Ladies head coach Mel Reay has given her reaction to her side’s heavy 7-0 Continental League Cup defeat to Aston Villa.

In the week leading up to the game Reay lost several key players such as Keira Ramshaw and Grace McCatty either through injury or personal reasons which disrupted preparation heading into the clash with their Women’s Super League opponents.

Although Emily Scarr was cleared to play after a drink was spiked during a night out, the Black Cats squad was further depleted when Megan Beer fell ill before kick-off meaning only four substitutes – including teenagers Grace Ede and Daisy Burt – could be named.

“With all the injuries we’ve had, it doesn’t really help that we couldn’t make any changes so the team picked itself almost,” Reay told safc.com after the game.

“Players had the chance to play, we got 90 minutes under our belt. It was a cup game which was always going to be difficult against WSL opposition, and they’re a really good side.”

They couldn’t have hoped for a worst possible start and found themselves two down inside the first 10 minutes as Laura Blindkilde and then Ramona Petzelburger capitalised on the Villa’s early dominance. Remi Allen’s goal just before half time all but finished the match as a contest but four goals in the second half, including a double from player of the match Alisha Lehmann, compounded a miserable afternoon and difficult week.

Reay added: “It was a tough game. When you concede that early on it was always going to be an uphill battle.

“I think we felt sorry for ourselves. It was a fluke goal, there wasn’t much we could have done about it, so we just needed to forget about it and move on.

“I was disappointed with the first half. I thought they came out fighting in the second half and showed what they were about.”

There were positives for Sunderland: Burt came on for a promising senior debut with fellow Lionesses youth international Ede also impressing in a 25-minute cameo.

Sunderland will be aiming to get back on track this weekend when they travel to Brighouse Town in the FA Cup third round, hopefully buoyed by the return of the likes of Ramshaw, McCatty, Jessica Brown and Beer before Liverpool return to Wearside in the Conti Cup the following week. A trip to Sheffield United in the league will be Sunderland’s final fixture of 2021 ahead of the winter break.

Reay said: “We were really short in terms of numbers, but they stepped up and really had a go and I’m delighted that the two youngsters got some minutes.

“We’ll go again this week and hopefully we’ll get a few more bodies back to give everyone a boost to play our FA Cup game on Sunday.”