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Sunderland sew up Northern Division title
 Women's Football News 18 May 2009
Sunderland clinched the Northern Division title and are promoted back to the top flight of women's football after two years away following their 4-0 victory away to Preston North End.
Sunderland needed nothing less than a victory in order to overhaul OOH Lincoln, who they trailed by two points going into the final match of the season.
Preston started brightly, forcing the first corner of the game which was cleared and the first opportunity went the way of Jordan Nobbs at the other end. Kelly McDougall and Lucy Bronze both had efforts on goal before the Wearsiders took the lead three minutes before half time.
Demi Stokes sprung the Preston offside trap and delivered a cross for Nobbs to volley home from the edge of the area and give her side a precious advantage.
Into the second half, Preston had the opening chance with Sarah Walker shooting just wide whilst Nobbs and Sophie Williams went close at the other end. Natalie Gutteridge fired a shot just wide but Sunderland were to double their advantage midway through the second half as a cross-cum-shot by Lucy Staniforth deceived everyone and dropped into the goal.
Hannah Bailey shot over the bar as Preston tried to find a way back into the game but Sunderland celebrations began as Gutteridge scored a third with a trademark header from a Stokes corner. Nobbs rounded off a perfect day for Sunderland with her second and the team's fourth with six minutes remaining as she rifled home from Stokes' cross.
A proud and emotional Sunderland manager Mick Mulhern said after the game: "The girls have been fantastic all season and have thoroughly deserved their success. The squad has an average age of just 19 and simply know no fear - that will help us next season. From a personal point of view I feel privileged to have managed a Sunderland side to the championship for a third time, It's a fantastic feeling."
The celebrations were tinged with a little sadness with the news that Sunderland's England international goalkeeper Helen Alderson, who was carried off last week at Leicester, received news that she has ruptured cruciate ligaments in her right knee and will have to undergo surgery. She could be out for up to nine months.

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