Durham Women win dramatic opening Conti Cup game


Durham Women opened their Conti Cup campaign with a 3-2 win over Championship rivals Blackburn Rovers, coming from 2-1 down in the second half.

First blood was drawn swiftly by the Wildcats when Saoirse Noonan smashed home two minutes into the game following fantastic work by Jess Clarke down the right hand side.

Durham remained in the ascendency, despite a subdued Maiden Castle crowd. Full debutant Erin Nicholson’s shot from range was easily dealt with. Soon after, Noonan tried her luck again, but this time her half volley was gathered by Shanell Salgado in Rovers’ goal.

And in a split second, the game switched. The visitors’ corner was met powerfully by Helen Seed, who sent the ball deep into the bottom left corner for the equaliser.

They pushed for another. Blackburn’s hopeful long range effort was bravely blocked by a header from Becky Salicki, but the force of the strike forced her down with a head injury. Inexplicably, the referee waved for play to continue, and sure enough, Blackburn found the net of Naoisha McAloon’s left post with Salicki still prostrate.

Outrage poured from the stands. Not only had the referee inarguably neglected the new concussion protocol within the rulebook, but he dismissed the apoplectic pleas from Durham’s players without acknowledgment whatsoever.

Back on the pitch following medical attention, Salicki furiously slashed a volley wide before half time, before Evie Smith skewed her shot a whisker wide for the riversiders.

The referee inarguably neglected the new concussion protocol within the rulebook

Blackburn midfielder Millie Chandarana was wasteful with a one-on-one chance five minutes into the second half. From then on, Durham controlled the match.

The hosts’ second debutant, Ellie Wilson, was unable to find a way past Salgado on the break. Then Noonan ballooned her free kick over from a promising position. Groans filled the air.

But Durham would get their reward. A handball was spotted by the referee in the penalty box, allowing Noonan to step up and convert the spot kick to the keeper’s left. 2-2, but the Conti Cup doesn’t do draws. A penalty shootout win counts for two, but Durham felt they could earn all three still.

A penalty shootout win counts for two, but Durham felt they could earn all three still

And so they did. Georgia Walters pinged a golden opportunity off the Durham crossbar in the final throes of the game, seeing the follow up miraculously shunted wide. Riding their luck, the excellent Noonan latched onto a ball on the byline and was clearly caught when delivering a cross. Opting against the hattrick, she selflessly handed the ball to Eleanor Ryan-Doyle, who was seeking her first goal in blue.

Nerveless, she lifted her penalty beyond Salgado into the top left corner, sparking delirium amongst the home faithful. Comeback complete.

Durham face Sunderland next in the competition, whilst Sheffield United and WSL competitors Aston Villa await beyond in the group stage. A strong start is encouraging for the Wildcats.

Durham XI: McAloon, Briggs, S. Wilson, Salicki, E. Wilson (Holmes 74), Bradley (Ayre 79), Lambert, Crosthwaite (Pritchard 63), Nicholson (Ryan-Doyle 74), Noonan, Clarke (Andrews 63)

Blackburn XI: Salgado, Smith, Seed, Silcock, Nokuthula, Toland (Howarth 85), Chandarana, Shepherd, Williams, Walters (Dale 85), Robertson (Doyle 85)


One thought on “Durham Women win dramatic opening Conti Cup game

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