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Sunderland 2 (Sharp 2, Mead 90) Notts County 1 (Clarke 17)
Sunderland resumed their 2015 FA WSL 1 campaign with a stunning 2-1 win against Notts County.
A frantic start saw the Black Cats race into an early lead with Hayley Sharp converting from close range, but Jess Clarke levelled on 17 minutes and County soon began to dominate. However, the second period saw the tables turn as Sunderland controlled the game and created a host of chances, but they were forced to wait until the second minute of time added on when Beth Mead rifled the ball into the top corner from 20 yards.
Head coach Carlton Fairweather named a strong starting eleven at the Hetton Centre, but he was unable to call upon regular goalkeeper Rachael Laws due to injury, with Hilde Gunn Olsen making her Sunderland debut.
However, it was at the opposite end of the field that the Black Cats made an immediate impact, with Hayley Sharp firing the home side into the lead with just 90 seconds on the clock.
Controversy struck 11 minutes later as a lofted clearance forward saw Mead race onto the loose ball and power past the defence, but after crafting a well worked route to goal the referee sounded his whistle for a foul on the beaten defender. From the restart the visitors burst down the pitch and Ellen White raced through on goal, but debutant goalkeeper Olsen closed down the angle and produced a stunning save to ensure the Black Cats' advantage remained intact.
Sunderland, however, failed to heed the early warning signs and moments later County levelled, with Clarke swivelling on the spot before volleying the ball into the far corner.
Clarke continued to cause problems and the Black Cats' failure to keep track of the winger almost cost them once more, with Olsen sprinting out to snatch the ball just as the England international looked to pull the trigger. County continued to press and they should have taken the lead ten minutes before the interval, as White fluffed her lines and missed the ball six yards from goal.
Sunderland regained a foothold in the contest following the break and they spurned a golden opportunity to retake the lead with 53 minutes played, as Mead burst onto the loose ball following a defensive mishap before firing wide from close range.
Abbey Joice replaced debutant Stephanie Roche just after the hour mark and she made an immediate impact, playing a quickfire one-two with Mead who fired inches wide of the post.
The Lasses continued to dominate during the second period but they continued to be wasteful in the final third, with Mead squandering the opportunity to shoot after a surging run by the impressive Joyce. With 12 minutes remaining, Mead looked to the sky in despair once more, as her curling effort evaded the grasp of Chamberlain and whistled past the post.
Further chances were created by the Black Cats in the latter stages of the contest but it looked like County's nervy backline would hold on. But with 92 minutes played Mead stepped up, fired at goal and sealed a deserved win.
Sunderland: Hilde Gunn Olsen, Abby Holmes, Stephanie Bannon, Hayley Sharp (sub Victoria Williams 27mins), Victoria Greenwell, Rachel Furness, Keira Ramshaw (sub Emma Kelly 88mins), Brooke Chaplen, Kelly McDougall, Stephanie Roche (sub Abbey Joice 63mins). Subs not used: Gemma Wilson, Sarah McFadden.
Notts County: Siobhan Chamberlain, Sophie Walton, Alex Greenwood, Fern Whelan (sub Dunia Susi 7mins), Laura Bassett, Dani Buet, Leanne Crichton, Amy Turner, Jess Clarke, Rachel Williams (sub Aileen Whelan 75mins), Ellen White. Subs not used: Ashleigh Plumptre, Laura-Jayne O'Neill.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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