SUNDERLAND head coach Claire Robinson insists there is still a long way to go in the race for promotion to WSL 1, despite last weekend’s crucial draw at Doncaster Rovers Belles.
The Lady Black Cats sit two points clear at the top of WSL 2 and remain favourites to claim promotion to the top flight in October.
Robinson’s side have been at the league’s summit since the season began back in April and although last Saturday’s point at the Keepmoat Stadium took Sunderland a step closer to the title, the head coach insists there is still time for twists and turns at the top.
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“We feel like it’s always been in our hands in the respect that we always prepare ourselves for each game and go out to win, we don’t worry about what anyone else is doing,” said Robinson, whose side welcomes Oxford United to the Hetton Centre tomorrow morning (11:30am kick-off).
“People keep saying it’s between us and Doncaster, but we’re not quite half way through yet so there are still a lot of points to play for. I still think Reading will come strong, but we’re still unbeaten in the league and it’s important we keep that record going.
“We go out to win every game but last week we needed to make sure we didn’t lose so it was great to get a point even though we were missing players for various reasons.”
The Wearsiders had to cope without Beth Mead, Abbey Joice and Abby Holmes against Doncaster and Robinson believes the result demonstrates the strength of her squad even without key figures.
She said: “It’s a testament to the strength of our squad and especially the girls who have come in and helped keep us going.
“It was nice to see us get a result. We’ve got a small squad but we know we can rely on them and they showed that last week.”
The Lady Black Cats are still without Joice, who has a long-term injury, while top scorer Mead is in Canada preparing for England’s opening game of the Under-20 World Cup.
Oxford sit second bottom in WSL 2 with one win and a draw so far, but Robinson has warned her side not to take their league position for granted.
“We know about them and we’ll have a game plan. They have added to their squad so we know we’ll have to work hard to get the result.”
Meanwhile, Durham could do their North-East neighbours a favour when they entertain Doncaster at New Ferens Park this morning (11am kick-off).
The Wildcats are rooted to the bottom of the table with just one win to their name, but captain Caroline Dixon believes her side can capitalise with Rovers under pressure to keep on the curtails of Sunderland.
Dixon said: “Doncaster are flying at the moment so it will be a very hard game for us.
“They’re at the stage now that they can’t really afford to drop anymore points so they’ll be looking for the win.
“But I’m confident and the last time we played them, even though we lost 3-1, we had them on the back foot at times and they were struggling to contain us.
“We know they’re a good team but we’ve shown that we can compete with teams at the top half of the table. We might be at the bottom right now but I’m confident in the ability of the players we have and I think some of the results haven’t done us justice.”