Coventry City Ladies manager Paul Cudby has admitted that his team were ‘’punished by lethal finishing’’, after a 4-1 defeat at home to defending FA Women's Premier League champions Sunderland.
Despite starting brightly, the Sky Blues fell behind to Keira Ramshaw’s early strike, before a brace early in the second-half from Kelly McDougall and Beth Mead put the game beyond Coventry’s reach. Helen Dermody pulled a goal back from the penalty spot, before McDougall added a second in added time, to wrap up a comprehensive victory for the Black Cats.
‘’Collectively we were disappointed with the goals we conceded’’ he said. ‘’Our usual strengths of keeping things tight defensively faltered for the first time in a long while, and we were punished by a lethal team, smack bang in the middle of a purple patch.’’
Last season, Coventry took four points off the eventual champions, and were one of only two teams to record a league victory over Sunderland, but Cudby was well aware of the threats posed by the opposition in the build-up to the match.
‘’We were fully aware of their strengths from our contests last season and their start to the season so far. Therefore a plan was delivered in training – as we normally do for every team to defend – and an attacking strategy to counter their vulnerabilities too. To be fair, it was executed well by the players, we just weren't able to take our chances and their goalkeeper was outstanding on the day too.’’
The scoreline was perhaps a little unfair on the Sky Blues, who controlled much of the game and looked dominant in the first-half. Striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk had an early strike ruled out for offside; Dermody struck the woodwork with an effort from distance, and Destiney Toussaint was expertly denied twice by Sunderland ‘keeper Rachael Laws.
This intent demonstrated positive signs for Cudby, who was full of praise for the creativity of his attacking players: ‘’A big positive was the number of chances that we created as a team from all areas, particularly against the best team in the league. We could have scored a hatful and if we can take this into our upcoming performances, then we'll score goals for fun too.’’
Cudby also had encouraging words for the performances of debutants Erica Mole and Bianca Bragg – both of whom started the tie – with the latter winning the penalty that Dermody subsequently converted. ‘’They both did well and it's a big ask to make your debut against the best team outside of the FA Women’s Super League too’’ he said. ‘’They've impressed, and we hope they'll continue to improve and be important players for us through the season.’’
The result leaves Coventry in 7th place in the FA Women’s Premier League, and they travel to take on an in-form Portsmouth team next weekend, who currently lie in second place in the division, having won two of their three games thus far, but Cudby is adamant that the Sky Blues will soon get back to winning ways. He said: ‘’Portsmouth will be a very big challenge as they're flying too now. We'll focus on what we need to put right as a group and I know we'll respond. We always do, I've got massive faith in the group and know how bad they were hurting after that defeat.’’