Rivals to meet in WSL curtain-raiser

The Northern Echo: UNDER PRESSURE: Sunderland’s Brogan McHugh challenged by Natasha Dowie and Lucy Bronze, of Liverpool, during last weekend’s friendly game at Hetton UNDER PRESSURE: Sunderland’s Brogan McHugh challenged by Natasha Dowie and Lucy Bronze, of Liverpool, during last weekend’s friendly game at Hetton

DURHAM and Sunderland will meet in an opening day derby as each embark on their first season at Women’s Super League second division (WSL2) level.

The first fixtures of the maiden WSL2 season features a clash of the two North-East sides, with Durham having home advantage, at New Ferens Park, on Thursday April 17, at 7.30pm.

Both sides have also been drawn into Group Two in the Continental Cup, the WSL’s League Cup, along with reigning league champions Liverpool and new powerhouses Manchester City, plus Everton and Doncaster Rovers Belles.

It means there will be a quick rematch for both sides after the league opener, as they meet in the first round of Continental Cup ties, with Sunderland at home, at the former Eppleton CW ground, at the Hetton Centre, Hettonle- Hole, on Wednesday April 30, also kicking off at 7.30pm.

The return league derby is at Hetton, on Thursday September 4, at 7.30pm.

Meanwhile, both sides continued their respective buildups to the WSL2 summer season, with contrasting outcomes to friendly fixtures last Sunday.

Durham beat Scottish Premier League side Hamilton Academical 4-1, with two goals for Stacey Crooks, and one each for Beth Hepple and Yasmine Hardy.

Sunderland went down 2-0 to WSL champions Liverpool, at Hetton. Natasha Dowie and American Amanda da Costa were the Liverpool scorers, both in the first-half, with Sunderland coming closest from Bekki Bass, who saw a shot bounce back off the underside of the bar after the break.

Sunderland’s Abbey Joice and Beth Mead have both been selected in Mo Marley’s 20-strong England Under-19 squad for an international tournament in La Manga, Spain, next month, when they will meet the Republic of Ireland, France and Italy over five days.

It is a warm-up ahead of April’s Elite Round qualifiers for the 2014 Euro Finals, in Norway, in July.

County Cups. – Both the outstanding Durham Cup quarter-final between Chester-le-Street and Peterlee St Francis, and South Durham and Cestria’s home semi-final, against Norton and Stockton, were postponed, as were all four of the Northumberland Cup quarter-final ties, last Sunday.

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