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Women's Football News
Sunderland defender Gemma Wilson was more than satisfied with her team's opening day victory away to Reading FC Women in the Northern Division.
The North East side ran out 3-0 winners and Gemma told Women's Soccer Scene: "We didn't play right at our best but got what we needed in terms of a result.
"Reading were a good side but we were a little more decisive on the day and took our chances. Kelly McDougall took hold of the midfield and Vicky Greenwell created some good moves on the left but overall the whole team played well."
The win also meant a happy, long journey home. "Away trips are always good, like a team bonding session," admitted Gemma. "We stayed overnight but it was a six and a half hour journey each way."
Sunderland have been busy strengthening their squad during the summer with the most notable arrival being England international Kelly McDougall. "Kelly has fitted in well and she could make a big difference to the team," says Gemma. "It's a bit harder for us to attract players like her to the North East but it's a huge boost. It was like having a virtually new squad with three new signings but everyone gelled together really well.
"We haven't lost any players from last season and there are some good young players coming through - for example, Jordan Nobbs turns 16 soon and she will bring extra quality to the side. We've brought in a few older players with top flight experience and this will help the younger players develop, the blend of the team is a lot better this year and that is a positive sign."
However the most important signing may well be the return of Mick Mulhern as manager. "It was hard not having him last season and everyone missed Mick," she says. "Since he came back, we realised how much we valued him and I think it is the same the other way round."
Sunderland finished in third place last season and Gemma revealed that the club is aiming higher this time around. "Promotion is our ultimate goal, second would be alright but we want to improve on last year. Top is where we want to be and, with the new signings, it is a realistic ambition.
"The league will be stronger this year and quality is going to be there. I think it will be between us and Lincoln, plus one or two teams who should be very competitive and will be around the top.
"A good start is imperative if you want to challenge for the league. A poor run at the start maybe cost us last year as we were always playing catch-up behind the top two."
Next up for Sunderland is a home game against Rotherham United on Sunday. "We have to go into this game with the same attitude," warns Gemma, "Rotherham lost 6-0 last week but we don't know if Leicester played exceptionally well or Rotherham had an off day. We have to just concentrate on our game and learn from last year when we lost to Crewe, but the experience of the new players should help us here."
Gemma herself will be hoping for better luck this season after a frustrating time battling against injuries. "I've had a few injuries every season," she smiles. "This is my first injury free pre-season since I came to the club and the fittest I have ever been going into a season. I have had knee operations and damaged ligaments in my left knee last season, it has been a run of bad fortune and hopefully things will have changed now."
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