Sunderland Ladies started 2022 with a disappointing 3-1 defeat to London City Lionesses in the FA Women’s Championship.

Atlanta Primus and Karin Muya gave the hosts a deserved lead at half time with Amy Rodgers putting the game beyond doubt on the hour. Kiera Ramshaw pulled one back from the spot in stoppage time of an afternoon to forget in Kent.

Head coach Mel Reay faced a defensive crisis heading into the game following Charlotte Potts’ release and injuries to full-backs Megan Beer and Faye Mullen, with midfielders Neve Herron and Jess Brown tasked with filling in.

The Black Cats and their makeshift backline were caught out by the Lionesses’ rapid start and found themselves behind within minutes of the kick off. Harley Bennett’s cross was touched into the path of Primus who found the bottom corner beyond Alison Cowling’s dive.

Moments later a swift counterattack from a Sunderland corner found Lucy Fitzgerald on the edge of the area, but her dipping effort was superbly tipped onto post by Cowling. The American barely had time to breath before being called into action again, parrying Karin Muya’s low cross out to Jamie-Lee Napier who was denied by Brown on the line.

After weathering the early storm, the away side began to see more of the ball – Emma Kelly trying her luck from distance after a good passing move before heading Herron’s floated freekick over the bar.

But the respite was short-lived as London poured forward once more. Alli Palisch’s ball over the top was taken well by Moya near the touchline who shrugged off Herron, but her shot flashed across the face of goal.

On the half hour, the hosts deservedly doubled their lead. Napier drove into the box and her strike off the post fell straight to Moya who prodded into the empty net. As the half ended, Napier and Mollie Rouse had chances to make it three from distance either side of Ramshaw heading a Kelly corner narrowly wide.

Although Sunderland started the second half strongly after regrouping during the break, London scored again with 30 minutes remaining as Rodgers tapped in after skipping past the onrushing Cowling.

Both sides made changes in the final stages and the home naturally took their foot off the gas, gave Sunderland the freedom to push forward – Ramshaw breaking free and forcing Shae Yanez to save at her near post after Abby Joice sliced wide.

In stoppage time, the Black Cats got the consolation their hard work deserved. Joice was tripped in the area after being played in on goal by substitute Grace Ede and Ramshaw coolly found the bottom corner from the spot.

The defeat sees Sunderland remain in ninth, but 16 points clear of bottom club Coventry United who were hit with a points deduction after entering voluntary administration.

With games in hand and still to play teams around them, Reay is confident of bolstering her squad this month which will provide a timely boost and hopefully secure another season in the second tier.

Sunderland: Cowling; Brown, Herron, McCatty, Griffiths; Kelly, Joice, Manders (McInnes 65’), Farrugia (Ede 65’), Ramshaw ©; Scarr (Blakey 82’)

Subs: Moan