Sunderland Ladies head coach Mel Reay has challenged her team to improve fast after they suffered a 2-0 defeat at Lewes to extend their winless Women’s Championship run to five games.

The Black Cats have not won in the league since October and although they have reached the Women’s FA Cup fourth round, their mid-season slump continues.

Reay’s side conceded another early goal when Isobel Dalton put the hosts ahead within the opening five minutes, with Ellie Mason doubling their advantage just before half time. Despite an improved performance in a fiercely contested second half in which both sides went down to 10 players, Reay and her side were left frustrated.

She said: “We started slowly, and I’m really disappointed with the first goal. It’s come from a throw in and we’re not tight enough, somehow, they have managed to have a shot which flew into the back of the net.

“We’ve addressed it during the week, and we’re still not organised. From that there was a positive reaction and I actually thought we were the better team in the first half without actually posing too much threat on their goalkeeper.

“Again, it’s something we need to be better at if we want to stay in this league.”

Early in the second half Sunderland’s hopes of mounting a comeback were boosted after the talented Freda Ayisi was shown a second yellow for a high challenge on Neve Herron but they were unable to break down the Lewes defence.

Reay added: “It’s hard when everyone is behind the ball but, again, I don’t think we were very patient on the ball and didn’t use the width well enough to probe and get round them.

“We started to get a little bit desperate and went that little bit longer which maybe that’s inexperience and having a young side. We keep saying we’re going to learn from it, but we’ve got to learn quick as we need to win points and we need to win them quickly.”

“We came here looking for a win, but they were the better team on the day. They managed to score two and we haven’t. It’s really that simple.”