Double disappointment for Sunderland AFC at the Stadium of Light

Sunderland Women 0 Birmingham City Women 4

Originally published in the Sunderland Echo on Sunday 28 August 2022

There was double disappointment at the Stadium of Light as both Sunderland’s men’s and women’s teams were defeated in the same afternoon.

Following the lunch time kick-off, which saw the Black Cats lost narrowly to Norwich City, Mel Reay’s Lady Black Cats were hoping to end a difficult couple of days on a positive note when they faced Birmingham City.

Despite a promising performance in the opening 45 minutes where they matched Darren Carter’s side, Harriet Scott’s volley in stoppage time halted their momentum with the Blues running riot in the second half.

Siobhan Wilson doubled the lead with a superb strike before Ashley Hodson and Jamie Finn completed the rout for the visitors.

Head coach Reay named the same team which held Durham to a draw in the opening game of the season, winning the ball back quickly and breaking with pace through the front three of Tyler Dodds, Emily Scarr and Nicki Gears.

But the trio saw little of the ball in the first 15 minutes or so as Birmingham controlled possession and created the better chances, Tara Bourne and Libby Smith forcing smart saves from Claudia Moan and the latter dragging her shot wide from a good position. When they did put the ball in the net, Smith was flagged offside.

Sunderland stood their ground and worked their way back into the game – Gears having two shots blocked by Louise Quinn and a corner scrambled away by City’s defence. There were loud shouts for a penalty at the other when Scarr was bundled over in the box, but referee Melissa Cairns waved away the protests.

It looked as though the stalemate would continue into half time until Birmingham found a way through the hosts’ defence. Moan did well to save from Jade Pennock, but Christine Murray’s corner was met by the defender whose volley looped up and into the far corner.

Reay rallied her side during the interval and started on the front foot, Dodds collecting the ball 25 yards out and firing a powerful, swerving shot straight at Lucy Thomas who then kept out Scarr at the near post.

However, the Blues showed why they will be looking for an instant return to the Super League with a dominant 15-minute attacking display which overwhelmed the home side.

First, Pennock collected Lucy Quinn’s pass in midfield and played in Wilson who raced through and lashed the ball across Moan and into the top corner.

Shortly after, they had their third. Moan reacted well to keep out Louise Quinn’s header from a corner but palmed straight to Hodson who tapped in to an empty net.

With seven minutes remaining, Jamie Finn compounded a miserable 48 hours on Wearside from close range.

Sunderland toiled as the clock ticked down to pull a goal back but were unable to find the goal their hard work deserved.

They now have two weeks to regroup and recharge before facing Sheffield United at Eppleton in September following the international break.

Sunderland: Moan; Griffiths, McCatty, Westrup (Beer 46’), Holmes; Danielle Brown, Emma Kelly ©, Ede (Joice 55’); Dodds (Manders 80’), Gears (Brown 55’), Scarr.

Subs: Cowling, Mullen, McInnes, Watson.