This weekend they face an unknown challenge, with newly-promoted Bristol City set to visit the Hetton Centre on Saturday.
Willie Kirk’s side are gearing up for their FA WSL 1 return later this year, and getting a feel for the level of competition in the Spring Series will be crucial.
Sunderland are yet to score in their two Spring Series encounters, but nor have they conceded and – given the calibre of opponents they have faced – that can only be seen a major triumph.
New boss Melanie Reay will be delighted with the effort and application they have put in, holding Arsenal and, before that, SSE Women FA Cup finalists Birmingham City.
The Vixens will have taken major confidence from their thrilling 3-2 win against Yeovil Town on Wednesday, which moved them up to third in the table.
It was the Vixens first victory back in the top flight after they lost 3-1 to Reading on the opening day, and they will look to extend their happy return against Sunderland.
The two sides met twice in the 2015 FA WSL 1 campaign, and it was Sunderland that emerged victorious on both occasions.
Goals from Rachel Furness and Brooke Chaplen have Sunderland a narrow 2-1 win the last time Bristol City Women travelled to Wearside – and they followed that with a 4-1 win three months later in the West Country.
ONE TO WATCH – CHLOE ARTHUR, BRISTOL CITY
With Sunderland under more pressure to open up and embrace a more expansive game Chloe Arthur is more than capable of taking advantage of any space left at the back.
The Scottish midfielder scored two goals, including the winner, against Yeovil at the weekend and Sunderland’s defence will have to be aware of her throughout Saturday’s contest.
WHAT THEY SAID
SUNDERLAND STEPHANIE BANNON: “It is a totally different challenge. We knew against Arsenal we weren’t going to have much of the ball and we knew we were going to have to defend for long periods of time throughout the game and we did that really well today.
“Hopefully against City Women we will have a little bit more of the ball whereby we can create a few more chances and put our spin on the game.
“We do need to keep the ball a little better going forward, we need to create a little bit more but if we keep a clean-sheet that is the foundation to go forward.
BRISTOL CITY MANAGER WILLIE KIRK:
“It doesn’t get any easier but that’s what we want and we worked hard last year to have these challenges.
“We can’t just have this as a one off result we need to go and try and get two or three results in the Spring Series, which is very tough when you look at the opponents and their budgets.
“Now that we’ve got that win it’s a great opportunity to go and get that second win.”
Tickets for Bristol City Women’s remaining Spring Series games are available via https://tickets.bristol-sport.co.uk/en-gb/categories/bristolcitywomenhome
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