That phrase that has almost become cliché permeated around Eppleton Colliery before the match. The magic of the FA Cup.
That magic was spoken of among the fans in the stands with memories of last season’s clash with Manchester United fresh in the minds of Sunderland supporters.
Sadly, the magic of the FA Cup does not extend to improving the weather. It was a wet and cold one on Wearside.
It was another derby day at Eppleton, of sorts, as Sunderland welcomed Wearside rivals Durham Cestria. Cestria, who are the development team of Championship outfit Durham Women, play in the fourth tier of women’s football in England – two tiers lower than hosts Sunderland.
Here’s the story of how the cup tie was decided.
If football was played on paper, this would be over before it began. On paper, Sunderland put out a strong team with Welsh international Mary McAteer leading the line alongside former Durham forward Liz Ejupi.
It was Ejupi who opened the scoring, profiting from some poor defensive passing after being slid clear through. She drove into the box and slotted the ball past Anna King.
The second of the game came just 10 minutes later, but from a wide area this time. After recycling the ball to the flank following a corner being dealt with, the ball was floated into the penalty area. King flapped and dropped the ball and Sunderland’s relentless pressure meant that Brianna Westrup was first to the ball, and she lifted it into the net.
More goals felt inevitable as the gulf in class between the sides became more and more visible. Durham played a lot of their football in their own half, looking to find gaps in which to counter. Sustained pressure from Sunderland cut many of these periods of Cestria possession off at source.
The visitors’ main outlet was Jess Clarke who buzzed between the left flank and the centre of the pitch in and out of possession, but Cestria struggled to find her often enough to threaten.
Twenty minutes separated the second and third goal, but it felt like there was a chance every minute between them. It must have been relentless for King between the sticks for Cestria.
Katie Kitching had spent the majority of the match peeling away from left back Rebecca Bell. Kitching frequently pulled out to the flank and exposed gaps in the channels. But she went from playmaker to poacher as she met a cross from the right to flick it into the far left corner.
In the dying minutes of the first half, McAteer profited from a rebound off King and made sure she added herself to a growing list of goal scorers for the afternoon after finding the net to make it four.
Sunderland found a lot of joy in the wide areas, with plenty of crosses played into the box. As they remained in the ascendancy for the vast majority of the game, the Black Cats also created plenty of chances from corners with the instruction clearly to drop the ball on the keeper to test her.
Sunderland could have been seven or eight up at half-time but for some wonderful point-blank saves from King.
The second half did not see a drop in the levels of pressure applied by Sunderland.
Seven minutes in, familiar patterns of play were already redeveloping to create chances and goals for Sunderland. They went 5-0 up through more play on the wings with McAteer sliding the ball across the box for a tap in at the back post into an empty net for Jenna Dear.
McAteer had a brilliant game and was a real hassle for the Cestria defence. She won the freekick that Kitching wonderfully guided into the top corner from an acute angle. It was not the first time in the last couple of months she had produced a finish like that, ironically against Durham’s senior side.
Some extremely close-cut offside calls saw Sunderland miss out on going seven up on two separate occasions. Again, the chances coming from wide or a sliding through ball to a forward. McAteer could have doubled her goal and assist tally but both chances were flagged with the crowd showing their lack of appreciation towards the assistant referee.
It was an afternoon when football played on paper would have produced the same result as football played on grass. The two tier difference in the squads was noticeable and perhaps it was fortunate not to reach double figures given the chances that Sunderland had.
Black Cats’ captain Westrup completed a brace two minutes from time, pushing a shot into the bottom corner after another ball from wide unstuck the Cestria defence. It was a tale of chances like this in the second half and Sunderland were perhaps unlucky that it remained single figures.
As a tactical battle it was very clearly one sided too. Sunderland’s intensity and structure limited any kind of chances for Cestria to long balls, runs from Clarke, or any lucky bounces. It was a professional display, even if wasteful at times with the glut of chances they crafted.
Nonetheless, Sunderland progressed to the next round of the Women’s FA Cup with a 7-0 win.