By George Simms
A 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers LFC at a misty Maiden Castle put an end to Durham Women’s three-game losing streak in the WSL Championship and secured their second-placed spot in the table ahead of the league’s winter break.
Lee Sanders’ side did their best impression of Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, with three impressive goals from defenders Abby Holmes and Becky Salicki.
Blackburn took the lead against the run of play through midfielder Ellie Leek after nine minutes. Shortly after, Durham striker Bridget Galloway was brought down clumsily by Natasha Fenton in the box and referee Stacey Fullicks awarded a penalty.
Yet the ever-reliable Wildcats top-scorer Beth Hepple’s penalty ricocheted back off the post and Blackburn held onto what always felt like a tenuous lead.
Durham were the better side throughout the first-half, but it took a moment of magic from an unlikely source to get the Wildcats level. 38 minutes in, centre-back Abby Holmes picked the ball up inside her own half, embarking on a marauding run down the middle of the field and thundering the ball into the top corner from 20 yards.
Holmes’ third league goal for the club since her signing from PEC Zwolle in 2018 was one befitting any highlight reel and saw the game level at half-time.
Holmes then doubled her tally for the game shortly after half-time. Whilst it may not have quite been as impressive as her first, it was just as important. Blackburn keeper Alexandra Brooks made a hash of a cross from Mollie Lambert and palmed it straight into the path of Holmes, who guided it into the back of the net via her knee.
The second goal gave the Wildcats renewed confidence. What seemed like an inevitable third goal came on the hour mark, courtesy of Becky Salicki’s stunning volley from a Beth Hepple corner.
Despite a series of late chances for Durham to extend their lead, the game finished 3-1. They go into the winter break in second place, but they do have a game in-hand over their rivals after postponements across the league this weekend.
After their recent poor run of form, this win will give Durham great confidence ahead of their visit to seventh-placed Lewes on 9th January. The Wildcats’ next game at Maiden Castle sees them host Crystal Palace, who beat them 3-1 in the reverse fixture, on 16th January.
Image: Durham Women FC