Stuart Barker looks at the current standings in Women’s National League North, with Sunderland currently leading the way….
This summer finally saw Gemma Donnelly’s team earn promotion to the Championship, leaving a number of teams vying to fill the void left by Rovers.
At present Sunderland sit top of the league with 19 points. Back in August, Melanie Copeland’s team took on their north-east rivals Newcastle United in the National League Cup. The game was held at the Stadium of Light in front of a crowd of over 1,100. This is a huge gate for two sides who play third and fourth tiers of women’s football.
The Mackems came out 3-2 winners on the day and have continued this form ever since. The only points they have dropped all season was in a 1-1 draw with their other local rivals, Middlesbrough.
Burnley sit just beneath Sunderland by three points but still have a game in hand. While Sunderland were extending their lead, Burnley were smashing 17 past Morecombe in the County Cup. Two of Burnley’s most dangerous forwards, Evie Priestley and Sarah Greenhalgh, have both been nominated for awards at the upcoming North West Football Awards. Both have a great case to be named the winner in November.
Current top scorer, Greenhalgh, has scored six goals so far this season and played a vital role last season when they secured their second successive league title and promotion into the National League North, the highest level the club have every played in. If they want to finish top in their first season then it’s vital that Greenhalgh stays fit.
The two have met in the National League Cup when Sunderland came away 2-0 winners but the pair don’t meet again until December and are scheduled to face off on the last day of the season in what could be a winner-takes-all match.
Sitting a point below the pair are Stoke City. Leading their quest to finish top is former Everton, Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers player, Faye McCoy. The centre-midfielder scored 12 goals last season and has already reached half that total within her first seven games. I am in no doubt that with her goals and her positive influence on the pitch, Stoke City can definitely compete for top spot and they will have a chance to prove me right in their next home game when they take on Burnley. A win for Stoke and the league remains wide open, although a win for Burnley could be the first step into this becoming a two-horse race.
There are also a cluster of clubs who are six to seven points behind the top three. These include Huddersfield Town, Nottingham Forest, West Bromwich Albion, Derby County and Fylde. All of which will believe that if they can win their games in hand or develop a bit more constancy then they can join the front runners who are in with a shout of winning the league.
Follow Stuart on Twitter at _ChuBarker