Sunderland Ladies boss desperate for winning end to WSL1 season
Carlton Fairweather insists there is still much to play for when Sunderland Ladies complete their Women's Super League season.
It would appear that only pride is at stake when the Lady Black Cats host Birmingham City at Eppleton CW tomorrow (kick-off 6pm).
The Blues are guaranteed fifth place in WSL1 though Sunderland will seal seventh if they can clinch the victory at Hetton.
It may not sound a grand boast given they spent almost the entire 2015 programme as title contenders before having to settle for fourth.
But as they have spent this season battling the dreaded drop, for Fairweather seventh represents something worth fighting for rather than ending eighth, just one spot clear of relegation.
“It’s a must-win game for us,” said the head coach. “We want to finish as high in the table as we can.
“The girls are determined to go out there and keep us in the position we are currently in.”
But earning a result against the Blues is not straight forward, as many sides have encountered this season.
Birmingham are organised and resilient with a capital O and R, conceding only 11 goals in 15 matches.
Fairweather said: “Birmingham are a good, well-organised side, they haven’t conceded many goals.
“They’ve not scored many but they’ve had a lot of good results and drew 1-1 with Man City not that long ago.
“It shows the calibre of team they are and the calibre of player they’ve got.”
Fairweather could have Steph Roche back after the Irish international missed the 1-1 draw with Notts county through illness.
But he will definitely be without Rachel Furness, who has had on op this week on an ankle injury, though the surgery should ensure she is fit for pre-season training in the new year.
The head coach had hoped to have joint top scorer Brooke Chaplen on the bench following a swift recovery from knee trouble, though the attacking ace will need a fitness test.
Keeper Hilde Olsen is likely to feature again, having started last weekend against County with first-choice keeper Rachael Laws stepping down to the bench.
Olsen has had to be patient as the understudy to the established number one but showed no sign of ‘ringrust’ when she came in last Saturday.
“It was to give her some time on the pitch and, to be fair, she did really well, making some good saves,” said Fairweather. “It’s something we may look at again this week.”
Sunderland’s season has been badly disrupted by injuries, but there have been positives, notably the introduction of a number of the club’s home-grown talent.
Olivia Watt was given her debut against Notts County and played the full 90 minutes while sub Bridgett Galloway nearly stole it late on only to see her 25-yard chip go just wide. They could feature again tomorrow.
Fairweather added: “Olivia started and did very well and with about 10 minutes to go, we brought on Bridgett and she looks a prospect.”