'Keep saying': Mel Reay's message for Sunderland and a team news update ahead of derby

Sunderland face Durham Women at Maiden Castle on Sunday (12pm kick off).

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Mel Reay insists Sunderland aren't getting carried away with their exceptional start to the season as they prepare to face Durham in the River Wear Derby on Sunday.

Sunderland remain unbeaten after eight games of the campaign, and their win over Lewes before the international break means they have already matched their entire points haul from last season.

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The Black Cats sit top of the Championship, having played one game less than Charlton who moved level on points with Reay's side after their own win over Lewes on Friday night.

Reay says the team's form means they will head into the local derby with a different kind of pressure on their shoulders and that her players will have to be at their best against a good Durham side.

"We're delighted to have got so many points on the board this early," Reay said.

"We weren't entirely sure how the season was going to go but the way that we've started the season has been unbelievable.

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"We've got a very talented group at our disposal and they want to learn, their application to what we're asking them to do is fantastic.

"The amount of new players we brought in, the worry was always how long it would take them to gel. As staff, it was evident to us that they had gelled very quickly and we're delighted to already have last season's tally on the board.

"We've put ourself in a fantastic position and the group are really motivated. It's a cliche but we really just do take it one game at a time, we're really focused and consistent with everything that we do.

"I think we got to Durham with a different type of pressure, to try and maintain our unbeaten run. I keep saying it but every team is going to want to be the one who beats us for the first time this season.

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"It's hard to keep stressing the importance to the players, we just have to keep reinforcing that message.

"I think it's an important game, you're in the same area and you're competing for the same audience really," Reay added.

"They're great occasions, both sets of fans come together and hopefully everyone will see some really good football. They're a good team with some really good individual players and we've got to keep them quiet. They've always been a hardworking team and so we know we're going to have to be at the races.

"Every game is competitive at this level, we want to win and get the three points and keep our run going for as long as possible."

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Sunderland will be without defender Louise Griffiths for the game, and says she will make a late call on a couple of other concerns.

"Louise pulled her hamstring in the last game and so she will miss this one," Reay said/

"She was back running pretty quickly and if she was picking the team on Sunday, I'm pretty sure she'd be in it. I think that shows the spirit we have, no one wants to miss games. We don't want to rush her back, and she

"We've got a couple of other niggles and we'll have to see how they are come Sunday but whatever side we put out there will be a competitive one."

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