By Abi Curran
Durham Women secured a 2-0 victory over local rivals Sunderland in an important match that helped the Wildcats maintain their top of the table spot.
Durham, who now sit two points clear of promotion rivals, Liverpool, hope to be the first North East side to enter the Women’s Super League.
Goals from Beth Hepple and Mollie Lambert were the difference between the two sides in the tussling North East Derby.
Sunderland and Durham may be rivals on the River Wear, though in terms of recent history the two sides are not all that familiar with each other.
The Black Cats’ promotion into the Championship this season provided a welcomed derby day that showcased an array of local talent – an important factor in the development of local grassroots women’s football. Ellie Christon’s 150thappearance added to the occasion of celebration.
The first half was somewhat quiet, though the dominance of Durham in possession pointed to their inevitable press that would carry into the second half. A shot just wide of goal from Galloway, the start of the Durham attack.
However, Sunderland looked dangerous at points in the first half, moving with attacking vigour on the break. Although the formidable defence, in the side that made only one change from their comfortable Lewes win, was never far to avert any jeopardy.
A couple of early Sunderland corners were dealt with by Durham with a Herron drive saved by the ever-reliable Megan Borthwick. Yet another clean sheet is testament to the solid Wildcat’s defence.
The deadlock would not be broken until the 58th minute with a statement Beth Hepple free kick. The number seven, just outside the corner of the 18-yard box, curling the ball into the bottom corner.
Durham had the advantage, but that did not mean Sunderland gave up, the Black Cats pressed on until the end but did not manage to put away any real chances – a couple of balls finding themselves straight into the hands of Borthwick.
On the other hand, Lambert, who seemed to be everywhere on the pitch, found the back of the net in the 76th minute. And it’s a good job her 20-yard lob was better than her knee slide celebration which needed a bit more work and water on the pitch. Moan was left scrambling following such clever vision from the number four.
A derby day win meant smiles on the faces of the many travelling Wildcat’s fans who made the journey to Sunderland’s Eppleton ground. And the support did not go unnoticed with Salicki tweeting after the game, ‘Was so good seeing so many blue shirts there today! Your support means everything.’
A local win on the road will inspire Durham with even more confidence going into the Continental Cup against Manchester United on Thursday. Maiden Castle expects to draw a near-full capacity crowd in what will be a must-watch game.
Durham XI: Borthwick, Hill, Briggs, Lambert, Wilson©, Robson, Hepple (Brown 83’), Galloway (Roberts 71’), Salicki, Bradley, Christon (Holmes 55’)
Goals: Durham: Hepple(58’) Lambert(76’)
Subs not used: Mackain, Johnson
Image: George Ledger