Cats round off pre-season with impressive win

Sunderland Women 3 Nottingham Forest Women 0

Originally posted in the Sunderland Echo on Monday 15 August 2022

Sunderland Women rounded off their pre-season preparations with a 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest at Eppleton Colliery Welfare.

The visitors edged a slow-paced first half in played in hot and difficult conditions, but it was the Black Cats who opened the scoring after 25 minutes through Grace McCatty’s cool finish. Fellow defender Louise Griffiths doubled the lead with a bullet header after the hour before Katy Watson put the result beyond doubt late on.

More than 700 supporters took up the club’s offer of free tickets and turned out to see new signings Brianna Westrup, Danielle Brown, Abby Holmes, Nicki Gears and Tyler Dodds in red and white for the first time – or, in some cases, return to Wearside for second spells.

Mel Reay named a strong line up but was without captain Keira Ramshaw and Neve Herron who are out with foot injuries, midfielder Abbey Joice and long-term absentees Abby Towers and Emily Hutchinson.

In the build up to the game, dozens of youngsters and parents were invited onto the pitch to wave flags and welcome their heroes with a guard of honour before the action got underway.

In soaring heat, it was Forest who had the best of the early chances, but they were unable to find a way past Claudia Moan. Then, perhaps against the run of play, Emma Kelly’s freekick struck Gears and fell to McCatty who coolly slotted into the bottom corner.

With numerous stops and water breaks neither side could find their rhythm, although Forest almost found the equaliser with a long-range effort which whistled over Moan’s crossbar. At the other end, Kelly and Holmes trying their luck from distance but unable to find the target.

Sunderland stepped up after the break, slightly tweaking their formation which saw Dodds begin to find space down the right. And they took full advantage as Grace Ede’s pass over the top found the former Glasgow City forward who curled an inch perfect cross into the path of Louise Griffiths at the far post who headed home.

With both managers making changes, the contest became a scrappy affair, with Emily Scarr’s freekick and Katy Watson’s blocked shot the only chances of note as the clock ticked down. There was a flare up on the Forest bench when manager Andrew Cook was shown a yellow card for dissent.

With 10 minutes remaining Watson, whose pace and movement were a constant threat since coming off the bench, showed tremendous strength as she stormed into the box and smashed the ball into the net.

The score line could have been even wider if not for the Forest goalkeeper, who pulled off two magnificent saves in the closing stages.

One blemish on a solid performance for Sunderland was an injury to Emma Kelly was came off with an ankle problem but is expected to be in contention for the weekend’s Championship Wear Derby opener at Durham Wildcats.

Sunderland: Moan (Cowling 45’); Griffiths, Holmes (Jessica Brown 75’), McCatty, Westrup, Mullen (Ede 45’); Kelly © (McInnes 35’), Danielle Brown, Gears (Manders 75’), Dodds (Watson 75’); Scarr.

Subs: Mallaburn.