Sunderland Ladies were held to a dour goalless draw at home to Coventry United in the Women’s Championship.
Two outstanding saves from Lucy Thomas from Faye Mullen and Jessica Brown in the closing stages were the highlights of the stalemate which stretches the Black Cats’ unbeaten run to three matches.
Forced into a defensive reshuffle heading into the game, Megan Beer replaced Abby Towers in a back line which was rarely threatened with United’s Katie Wilkinson setting the tone for an uneventful first half with a skied effort within the opening minutes.
The away side saw a flurry of corners come to nothing before Neve Herron fired over at the other end as both sides enjoying spells of possession without troubling the other. It would be another half-an-hour before either had a sight of goal – Coventry’s Wilkinson playing through Elisha N’Dow who failed to hit the target and then Mollie Green shooting straight at Claudia Moan in added time.
After the break things livened up a little, Maria Farrugia throwing herself at a dangerous Abbey Joice cross but scuffing the ball out for a goal kick, and Olivia Ferguson unleashing a strike from distance which was well held by Moan.
But that proved to be another false start as the sides struggled to create clear openings, Coventry United looking happy to take a point back to Midlands that would edge them closer to Watford at the bottom of the table and a remarkable escape from relegation.
It was not until four minutes from time that the 400-plus crowd had something to cheer. Like lightning from a clear sky Mullen’s powerful rising drive came from nowhere, but Thomas somehow got her fingertips to the ball which was heading for the top corner.
Pushing forward in numbers in one last push to win all three points, Emma Kelly slipped a pass through to substitute Brown who took a touch in the box only for her shot across goal to be denied by another acrobatic save from Thomas who palmed out for a corner.
Both sides will be happy to take a point – Sunderland have seemingly put their winter blip behind them with the River Wear Derby up next for Mel Reay her squad at the end of April, while the great escape is still on for Coventry who are six points from safety with three games remaining and rivals Watford to play on the final weekend of the season.
Sunderland: Moan; Mullen, McCatty, Beer, Griffiths; Kelly, Herron, Joice; Manders (Watson 66’); Farrugia (Brown 80’), Ramshaw © (Ede 66’).
Subs: Cowling, Boyes, McInnes, Blakey.