By Abi Curran
Durham Women were held to a goalless draw at Maiden Castle by a determined Coventry United side fighting for survival.
The Wildcats will be disappointed they didn’t manage to get the full three points. In a game where Durham’s formation dominated the ball on every area of the pitch, the deadlock could not be broken thanks to a stubborn Red and Greens defence and some contentious decisions.
There’ll be some tired legs in the Coventry side in the morning. Durham Women opened the game with a back three, managing to utilise the far sides with the power of Ellie Christon and Kathryn Hill. Coventry were stretched from the off with encouraging phases of play also opening up in the middle between Mollie Lambert, Beth Hepple and Lauren Briggs.
With the Durham pressure mounting in the first half, Sarah Wilson gave Coventry United a clear warning with an on target shot from 25-yards out. Some will argue it was never going to make the back of the net but that didn’t stop Lucy Thomas from making an acrobatic dive to tip it over the bar.
And when the ball did find its way into the back of the Coventry United net inside the 25th minute, the goal was disallowed due to an apparent foul on the Coventry keeper. Rio Hardy had the poach against her former club snatched from her grasp – a stroke of bad luck that would stay with Durham Women for the rest of the game.
The first half was very promising. If someone were to say there’d be no goals in this game you’d bet against them. Countless attempts from the Wildcats begged so many questions of the Coventry defence, but the side battling for a place in the Championship next year came for a draw and that was evident in their play.
Into the second half, Durham took a few minutes to get warmed up. They got into their stride again inside the 60th minute with Hepple and Hardy linking up just inside the Coventry half. Hardy took the ball, making a trailblazing run to the edge of the right side of the 18-yard box, a successful cross was met by Briggs who got a shot off but could only force a Durham corner.
Beth Hepple was particularly busy setting up corner after corner, only to be met with Coventry heads in the packed box.
On the 66th minute a Durham free-kick was floated in by Hepple. After a lot of bumbling about in the box, the ball was heading goalward off a Coventry defender’s body. If it wasn’t for Lucy Thomas making a diving save, Coventry United may have had a lot to answer for.
As the 80th minute beckoned, a goal from the Wildcats felt inevitable. Though when Rio Hardy hit the left post with a floating cross across the face of goal, it was setting up to be one of those days for Durham.
Durham became even more frustrated when a penalty shout from a challenge on substitute, Bridget Galloway was dismissed by the referee. The number eleven was down inside the 18-yard box wondering what the Wildcats would have to do to get a goal out of this game.
On the final whistle, 0-0 was the score line. The Coventry bench were jubilant at their gritty defensive effort while Durham were left disheartened by some of the on-field decisions left out of their control.
Speaking to Palatinate following the game, Sarah Wilson expressed her frustrations, “I believe we dominated the game from start to finish. We 100% should’ve come away with all three points.
“We were let down by two or three very poor refereeing decisions. I’d like to watch them back because you’re looking at them and it’s frustrating when you come off the pitch. Hopefully it’ll make it a little bit clearer about what it was because you can’t play against that.”
Wilson did also see the positives from the game that Durham will take with them for the remainder of the season, “Because we’ve got such a strong squad, no matter who you’re playing against, you can make those changes where, maybe in the past we haven’t had the people or opportunities to do that.”
Abby Holmes and Bridget Galloway certainly injected the pace and pressure required in the late stages of the game. On the day, for various reasons, Durham couldn’t break the deadlock but the Wildcats will be ready and raring to be back purring in their next Championship fixture vs Lewes.
Durham XI: McAloon, Hill, Briggs, Lambert, Wilson, Hepple, Hardy, Salicki, Robson, Ejupi(Galloway 74′), Christon(Holmes 74′)
Coventry XI: Thomas, N’Dow, Haigh(Riglar 90+’), Green, Morris, Fergusson, Johnson, Estcourt, Thomas(Orthodox 82′), Mann, Wilkinson
Image: Durham Women FC