SUNDERLAND and Durham make their long-awaited Women’s Super League debuts tonight when they go head-to-head in a North-East derby at New Ferens Park.
The pair were accepted into the newly-extended franchise last summer and they will battle it out in the second tier alongside the likes of Doncaster Rovers Belles, Reading and Watford.
Reigning Women’s Premier League champions Sunderland were rejected for a place in the inaugural WSL season two years ago and new head coach Clare Robinson admits the side are raring to get started after their long wait.
“It’s been a long time transitioning and the girls have been working hard since July,” Robinson said.
“We’ve talked about it for so long and we just want to get out there now. The girls’ attitude has been fantastic – they’ve really put the hard work in.”
Having claimed three consecutive titles, the Lady Black Cats go into the season hotly tipped to win promotion to WSL 1, but Robinson insists it won’t be a foregone conclusion.
She said: “It’s an open league - there’s some new teams coming in alongside the likes of Doncaster Belles and Reading, who are a threat and will definitely challenge.
“It’s certainly going to be competitive. We have aims and goals and definitely our main one is to win promotion to WSL 1.”
Tonight’s game will be Durham’s first ever competitive league match and despite suffering last-minute heartache in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth round tie against Portsmouth, head coach Rob Atkin admits his side are keen get off to a positive start.
“We’re all looking forward to it and we’ll use the Portsmouth defeat as a springboard,” he said.
“We talked about not wanting to have this [losing] feeling and sometimes you lose games in the last minute but that’s the way it goes.
“Tonight is about the players making history on the pitch as Durham Wildcats take to the pitch at this level for the very first time in their existence.”
The game kicks off at 7:30pm at New Ferens Park, Belmont Industrial Estate, Durham, DH1 1GG. Tickets are £4 for adults and £2 for concessions. Tickets are available on the door tonight or can be bought in advance at http://durham.fawsl.com/tickets.html.