By Ben Fleming
Durham tonight find themselves top of the Women’s Championship after a Bridget Galloway equaliser, with the last kick of the game, earnt them a 1-1 draw against a difficult Charlton Athletic.
Truth be told this was not a classic affair, and far from Durham’s best, but a draw feels somewhat a fair result in a game of few clear-cut chances for both sides at Maiden Castle.
It was Charlton who started the brighter of the two sides in this encounter, keeping the ball high up the pitch and not allowing Durham to settle into their normal possession-based style. Their early dominance nearly proved fruitful six minutes in as Jess King stormed through and chipped the ball over Borthwick and into an open net. Durham’s blushes were saved only by the flag of the linesman with King having strayed marginally offside in the build-up.
Durham grew into the game as the first half progressed with Lambert and Robson beginning to see more of the ball in the midfield against an industrious and hard-working Charlton side. However, it was too often the final pass or decision in the attacking third that let Durham down and meant they failed to test Cumings, in the Charlton goal, with enough regularity.
A Galloway effort from a tight angle which sailed narrowly over the bar proved to be the only chance of real consequence in a cagey first half for Durham.
The second half nearly saw an immediate change in Durham’s fortunes, however. After some intricate play down the right-hand side, a cross from Gears was flicked goalbound by Galloway and only kept out by a fantastic save from Cumings. Only minutes later, Cumings would be forced into action again to superbly tip Galloway’s long-range effort over the bar after she had done very well to outmuscle the Charlton centre backs.
Following these early chances, it seemed like Durham were the most likely to score. However, the script was ripped up in the seventy-sixth minute as centre-back Lois Heuchan beat Borthwick to the corner to head home and give Charlton a 1-0 lead against the run of play.
Durham were forced onto the front foot in search of an equaliser, but one was not forthcoming. The oncoming substitution of Crosthwaite and the tactical shift to a back three, unfortunately, did little to arrest Durham’s distinct lack of creativity and chance creation. However, this was as on account of Charlton’s superb organisation and resilience in defence and something that should be praised in nearly securing them all three points.
It was a case of nearly for Charlton, though. With the last action of the game, a corner, swung in by Sarah Wilson, was punched away by Cumings towards Bridget Galloway whose touch and finish squeaked in at the far post, securing Durham a vital point and heartbreak for Charlton.
Speaking to Palatinate after the game, goalscorer Bridget Galloway acknowledged the disappointing performance. “Everyone knew it wasn’t our best performance today, no one was on the top of their game and we can do better. We didn’t get started today but we’ve done well to come away with a point today.”
However, as they look forward to a top of the table clash with Sheffield United next weekend, a team who lost at the weekend against Liverpool and whom Durham put six past in the cup only two weeks ago, Galloway was still full of optimism, despite the lacklustre performance against Charlton.
“We’ll go in with confidence every game. We knocked six past them during the week and, hopefully, we can do it again next week.”
Durham XI: Borthwick, Christon (Crosthwaite, 77′), Wilson, Hill, Briggs, Lambert, Robson, Roberts (Sharpe 63′), Hepple, Galloway
Goals: Durham: Galloway (90′); Charlton: Heuchan (76′)
Subs not used: Reid, Ayre, Greenwood, Lee
Image: George Ledger/Durham Women FC