Sunderland and Newcastle hope to join elite

FA Women’s Cup

THE surviving North-East duo both head to uncharted destinations on Sunday as they bid to mix it with the powerhouses of the Super League next month.

All eight sides from the FA’s elite summer league enter at the fifth round stage on March 11, going into Monday’s draw with the winners of Sunday’s eight fourth-round ties.

Sunderland and Newcastle United each start favourites against lower league opponents in two of those ties, but both face long and potentially tricky trips.

Newcastle will enjoy stepping out against Oxford United at the 12,000-seater Kassam Stadium, home of the club’s League Two men’s team, shared this season with newly promoted rugby Premiership side London Welsh.

Like Newcastle, Sunderland will face first-time opponents in the shape of Sporting Club Albion, who lie seventh in the Premier League’s Northern Division.

Albion are part of the West Bromwich sporting club and play their home games at The Grove, the home of Halesowen Town.

Both of Sunday’s ties kickoff at 1pm.

FA Premier League

SUNDERLAND survived with their unbeaten record intact, but only after a point was salvaged with a late equaliser at Leeds United last Sunday.

The first league meeting of last season’s top two in the National Division was a typically even affair, with United shading the first-half, but Sunderland fighting back strongly after the break, at Farsley.

Leeds took the lead with Sunderland down to ten players midway through the firsthalf.

Substitute Sarah McFadden, introduced after an early injury to Natalie Gutteridge, was grounded by a strong challenge in midfield and would play no further part in the match after 26 minutes.

But before the sub could, herself, be replaced, the home side capitalised as ex-Sunderland midfielder Rachael Lee fed Clare Sykes to confidently finish after rounding visiting keeper Rachael Laws.

The Sunderland fight back saw several near misses after the break, but it appeared to be to no avail when a free-kick was scrambled off the Leeds line in the closing 90 seconds.

But super striker Beth Mead pounced on the rebound and fired home through a ruck of players to give the Lady Black Cats a share of the spoils.

The 1-1 draw left Sunderland five points above thirdplaced Leeds, and two ahead of Watford, with a game in hand, at the top of the table.

Northern Combination

SOUTH DURHAM and Cestria go into Sunday’s top-of-thetable match against Chorley, at Brinkburn Road, Darlington, in confident mood.

SD&C remain the only side to have beaten Chorley in the league all season, with a stunning 4-2 victory, having at one stage been 4-0 up, at Charnock Richard, in October.

Apart from an FA Cup loss at Mossley Hill, South Durham have since remained unbeaten and warmed up with an impressive Durham County Cup semi-final win against Peterlee St Francis last Sunday.

Both Chorley and South Durham have enjoyed spells in pole position in the combination recently, but the Lancastrians regained top spot with a 4-0 win at Wakefield last Sunday.

Bradford City also remain strong contenders, keeping their unbeaten record intact with a 6-0 win at Mossley Hill.

The Bantams are now just four points behind South Durham but have two games in hand.

County Cups

SOUTH DURHAM are strong favourites to lift the Durham County Cup after an 8-2 win against North-East Regional League leaders Peterlee St Francis at Brinkburn Road, last Sunday.

Beth Hepple scored half of the South Durham goals, including a second-half hat-trick from midfield, while Zoe Ness bagged a brace.

Debbie Stansmore and Becky Hanratty were the other home scorers.

Despite being all square at 1-1 after 20 minutes, South Durham struck four more before half-time and were 8-1 up after Hepple’s triple strike following the break, before a late St Francis consolation.

SD&C will meet county league side Jarrow, who won their semi-final at Seaton Carew last Sunday, in the final, likely to be played in either late April or early May.

The big guns will contest the North Riding County Cup after away wins for Middlesbrough, 4-1 at Redcar Athletic, and York City, 2-1 at California, last Sunday.

Whitley Bay, Prudhoe Town, Newcastle United Reserves and Tynedale go into the hat for the semi-finals of the Northumberland County Cup after all enjoyed a smooth passage through last Sunday’s quarter-finals.

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