BLUES Ladies have plenty to ponder heading into the mid-season break after a frustrating defeat 3-0 at a Beth Mead inspired Sunderland.
The newly-promoted hosts were handed a dream start with Mead’s goal after just 20 seconds and they went on to establish a telling 3-0 lead by the break as Blues were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal.
The result leaves Blues just a point above bottom placed Bristol Academy one game short of the midway point of the league season and facing a battle to preserve their top flight status when the action resumes after the women’s World Cup in Canada.
David Parker’s side only had themselves to blame for the mountain they had to climb in the second half as numerous chances went begging to haul themselves back into the match.
Mead opened the scoring in sublime fashion by powering in on goal from the left and arrowing a left-footed strike into the far corner beyond Sophie Baggaley, deputising for the ill Becky Spencer.
The visitors responded well to the early setback and Freda Ayisi made a fine chance for herself in the eighth minute, only to fire wide from 15 yards with just home keeper Rachael Laws to beat.
Six minutes later Kirsty Linnett’s strike from inside the area was deflected inches wide after impressive work from Mel Lawley on the left.
Blues continued to boss possession and the home defence looked nervy but, with the pace of Mead a constant threat with the long ball on the break, Sunderland remained dangerous.
It was beginning to look like one of those days for luckless Blues and so it proved as Mead caused mayhem in the visitors’ box and Brooke Chaplen was on hand to fire past the helpless Baggaley from close range in the 33rd minute.
Mead then wasted a glorious chance to make it 3-0 in the 44th minute as she fired wide when clean through, but the reprieve for Blues was shortlived as Victoria Greenwell curled a stunning 22-yard free kick into the top corner in the final action of the first half.
Blues began the second half determined to fight their way back into the game and Linnett twice threatened with headed efforts – the second of which was hooked off the line in the 62nd minute.
Linnett’s afternoon came to a premature end as she fell victim to a hefty challenge which saw her helped from the field with another ankle injury and the likeable forward was clearly distraught as she departed to warm applause from everyone inside the Hetton Centre.
The final quarter of the game passed without much goalmouth incident and Blues made the long journey home contemplating how they will turn around their struggles in front of goal ahead of their return to league action at Manchester City on July 12.