Sunderland came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest Women and record their first win of pre-season.
An incisive break from the visitors saw Mai Moncaster open the scoring after 14 minutes, but the Black Cats turned the game around quickfire second half goals from Holly Manders and Eve Blakey (pictured above).
Manager Mel Reay made three changes from the side that narrowly lost to Celtic Women on Thursday, with Alison Cowling, Holly Manders and Emily Scarr coming in for Claudia Moan, Eve Blakey and Emily Hutchinson.
There was also a new face in the dugout following the announcement of Steph Libbey as Assistant Manager, replacing the long-serving Trevor Atkinson.
The hosts started the brightest and had the first chance of the game, Megan Beer’s cross was met by Manders in the box who headed straight at Aja Aguirre. Then, Scarr’s dangerous freekick was agonisingly missed by Charlotte Potts at the far post.
After Manders pulled a long-range shot wide, Forest took the lead against the run of play. Sophie Bramford’s pass put Moncaster through on goal and she coolly finished past Cowling.
Sunderland continued to press, Kiera Ramshaw cutting in from the right and firing straight at Aguirre before Mullen forced a superb acrobatic save from the goalkeeper with a volley across goal. Moments later, Scarr collected a corner on the edge of the box but put her effort high and wide.
The final chance of the half went to the Black Cats – Potts strode forward from defence and unleashed a 25-yard shot which whistled over the bar.
With words of encouragement from the new management team at the break, Sunderland were again on the front foot, Blakey unable to beat substitute goalkeeper Emily Batty after being played through by Libbi McInnes.
Emily Hutchinson began to cause problems down the left, getting to the byline only to see her low cross prodded onto the outside of the post by Blakey. Hutchinson herself had a chance to equalise after pressing from Ramshaw caused panic in the Forest defence, unfortunately the young midfielder couldn’t keep her shot down.
Scarr and Joice were next to try their luck, the latter weaving her way into the box but her strike was collected by Batty. The pressure was building, and Sunderland’s best chance fell to captain Ramshaw who was leading by example, brilliantly jinking past two defenders but she was hit the centre of the goal and Aguirre easily gatherd.
As the half wore on, and it seemed it was going to be one of those days for Sunderland, the breakthrough finally came. Scarr’s deep corner found Manders at the far post who bundled the ball into the net.
Less than two minutes later, it was two. A perfect pass behind the defence from Joice was pounced on by Blakey and the youngster slid the ball into the bottom corner.
Both goalkeepers were called into action as full-time approached, but it was the Black Cats who held on for a deserved win.
Sunderland: Cowling, Beer, McCatty, Potts, Mullen, McInnes, Joice, Ramshaw ©, Manders, Scarr, Farrugia.
Subs (rolling): Hutchinson, Blakey, Moan.
Nottingham Forest Women: Aguirre, Hewitt, Harkin, Cook, O’Neill, Anderson, Bramford, Thomas, Moncaster, Arber, Trialist.
Subs (rolling): Batty, Steggles, Middleton, Walters, Tudor.
Words and photo by Chris Fryatt