Black Cats poised for toughest test

HAT-TRICK HERO: Beth Mead is pictured celebrating her hat-trick last weekend

HAT-TRICK HERO: Beth Mead is pictured celebrating her hat-trick last weekend

First published in Sport

SUNDERLAND face Leeds United on Sunday in the first of two potentially pivotal clashes in the National Division.

The Lady Black Cats return to the Throstle’s Nest ground of Farsley Celtic, where Leeds play their home fixtures, having drawn 2-2 in a League Cup group stage game in November.

With only five points separating the sides at the top of the table, and six to play for in their two league meetings, the Leeds/Sunderland matches will probably prove highly influential.

The return fixture is at the Hetton Centre, Hetton-le-Hole, on March 24.

Sunderland, meanwhile, who are seeking to repeat last season’s double, will meet Cardiff City or Brighton in the quarter-final of the League Cup, at home on Sunday, February 10.

The Lady Black Cats made light work of Premier League Northern Division leaders Sheffield FC in the second round, at Hetton, last Sunday.

Beth Mead fired a hat-trick in 50 minutes, as Sunderland raced to a 4-1 lead, with Kelly McDougall, Rachel Furness and Sophie Williams adding other goals, while Sheffield’s Ellie Gilliatt put past her own keeper, in an eventual 7-2 home victory.

Lisa Giampalma briefly brought Sheffield level shortly after Mead’s opener, while Kayleigh Mitchell scored a late consolation.

Sunderland’s young strike duo of Mead and Keira Ramshaw have both been called up for an England Under-19 training camp at the new FA coaching centre at St George’s Park from February 20-22.

Newcastle continued their bright start to 2013 with an impressive 2-0 home win against second-placed Northern Division challengers Preston North End.

Following an impressive opening half at Coach Lane, United took the lead shortly after the break when Stacey Crooks finished well following good build-up play by Molly Collinson.

United skipper Sarah Wilson headed off the home line, before the game was settled in emphatic style by a 30-yard Lizzie Fraser fizzer.

Manager Michael Havelock praised his side’s ‘guts and determination’ to play good football despite the difficult conditions.

Newcastle hope to run up a third straight wins this year as they make their first away trip of 2013, meeting second from bottom Derby County at Borrowash Victoria’s ground on Sunday.

In the Durham County Cup, the plum tie of Sunday’s quarter- finals is the meeting between Chester-le-Street and South Durham & Cestria, second in their respective divisions, at Moor Park, Chester Moor.

The other ties, all at 1.30pm, are: Seaton Carew v Hebburn, Jarrow v Boldon, and, Rutherford Ravens v Peterlee St Francis.

Following last Sunday’s weather-related wipe-out, there is a limited two-game fixture list in the Northern Combination tomorrow due to County Cup ties.

Middlesbrough, who remain fifth, travel to Nostell Miners’ Welfare to meet lowly Wakefield, seeking a repeat of their 6-0 home victory in November.

Leaders Chorley, just threepoints ahead of South Durham and Cestria at the top of the table, will face a stern test at Thackley against fourthplaced Bradford City.

It’s the same in the North- East Regional League due to the County Cup commitments of many sides.

Whitley Bay, left in ninth spot in the Premier Division after a 1-0 home defeat to York, travel to West Yorkshire to face Lepton Highlanders.

Leaders Peterlee St Francis suffered their first defeat of the season last Sunday, going down 5-3 at third-placed Castleford White Rose.

The home side were 3-0 up at the break, although PSF recovered some pride in the second- half, with substitute Carley McQuillan coming off the bench to score, while Leanne Anderson added a double.

Chester-le-Street remain hot on Peterlee’s heels, with halfa- dozen different scorers in their 6-0 home win against Scunthorpe.

There are four Northern Division fixtures, with leaders Norton and Stockton Ancients heading to third-placed Easingwold Town Angels.

NASA went clear at the top with a 3-0 home win against Whickham Fellside last Sunday.

Redcar, in second spot, make the distant journey in the opposite direction, to north Northumberland, to face Lowick United.

Durham Wildcats, 4-0 home winners against Tynedale at Maiden Castle last Sunday, travel to Watergate Park to meet Whickham Fellside on Suinday.

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