By Ella Jerman
Durham Women’s FA cup dream goes on after reaching the quarter- finals of the competition for the first time in the club’s history. They will host FA Women’s Super League 1 side Everton Ladies in the last eight of the competition on Sunday 18th March in what will be a historic afternoon for the County Durham club.
The Wildcats secured their place in the quarter-finals with a hard-fought 5-2 win against Leicester City Ladies in the fifth round. Durham looked the more assured outfit from the offset and took a deserved early lead through Zoe Ness. Ellie Christon doubled the host’s lead after 25 minutes, but these early setbacks weren’t enough to deter Leicester from putting up a fight.
Leigh Dugmore and Sophie Domingo netted to put the visitors back in contention on the brink of half-time, but Durham reacted quickly and Abi Cottam’s spectacular first-time volley sent her side into the break 3-2 up. A second from Cottam and a late strike from Emily Roberts put the match to bed in the closing stages of the game and sealed Durham’s progression into the quarter-finals of the most prestigious cup competition in women’s football.
The match was something of a reunion for Durham defender Annabel Johnson as she faced one of her former sides. The left-back came close to getting on the scoresheet herself in the first-half but saw her header come flying back off the upright.
Goalscorer Abi Cottam and captain Beth Hepple were named in The Times’ Women’s FA Cup Team of the Week alongside the likes of England’s Fran Kirby for their impressive performances against the third-tier side.
Durham will be looking to build on the positives from this win ahead of what will be a tricky tie against top tier side Everton next weekend. Currently sitting fourth in the FA WSL 2, Durham have enjoyed a strong first half to their league campaign. The Wildcats got their season off to a good start with a 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur Ladies at New Ferens Park back in September and have only been bested on home turf once since then.
With nine league fixtures remaining, all is still to play for in the FA WSL 2. Durham will be determined to improve on last season’s points total of 33 – the highest ever achieved by the club – in order to boost their promotion chances. While the Wildcats are not mathematically out of contention for a top two finish, wins in their upcoming fixtures against London Bees and Oxford United will be vital if they want to keep their promotion hopes alive.
Durham Women’s F.C. have come a long way since the club was founded in 2013 as a collaboration between South Durham and Cestria Girls and Durham University. Despite never having competed at the top level of women’s football, Durham were one of 10 successful applicants to enter the second tier of the Women’s Super League back when it was introduced in 2014.
Since then, the Wildcats have improved on their points total year after year and were even awarded the FA WSL 2 Club of the Year Award at the 2017 FA Women’s Football awards for their club record-breaking 2016-17 season finish.
More recently, a number of Durham players have enjoyed individual success by receiving international call-ups. Striker Zoe Ness recently met up with the Scotland senior squad in Spain to prepare for their double-header against New Zealand, whilst Sarah Robson and Ellis Dalgliesh received call- ups to the Northern Ireland and Scotland U19 squad respectively.
The club’s official Twitter account (@DurhamWFC) will be providing live minute-by-minute updates on the quarter-final against Everton. Or you could head down to New Ferens Park on Sunday 18th to cheer the girls on to the semi-finals!
Photograph: Durham Women’s F.C.