Durham Wildcats have created history in their debut season by reaching the First Round of the FA Women’s Cup.
A resounding 3-0 victory over Barnsley LFC in the third qualifying round secured Durham’s passage to a place in the country’s premier knockout competition.
This followed comprehensive wins over Penrith and Tynedale in the first and second qualifiers respectively, setting up a difficult tie against a Barnsley side who sit comfortably above Durham in the women’s football pyramid.
A strong crowd was attracted to Brewery Field, home of Spennymoor Town FC, for the titanic cup clash – and Durham didn’t disappoint.
Gemma Nortcliffe, a former Leeds United Ladies player, gave Durham a deserved 1-0 lead after just 10 minutes, and from there the Wildcats asserted their dominance.
They monopolised possession and continued to create the brighter openings, with only one notable Barnsley chance coming just before half-time.
After the interval, Emily Clark put the game out of the Yorkshire side’s reach with a tremendous finish, capitalising on a poor clearance to curl a first-time effort into the top corner.
Even with a two-goal cushion the Wildcats maintained their industry and tempo, allowing Laura Stockdale to emphatically slot home from the edge of the box on the 70-minute mark, ending the day’s scoring and Barnsley’s slim hopes of a revival.
Coach Richard Warburton spoke with pride after the game.
“I was very pleased with the attitudes and work rate of the girls throughout the 90 minutes.
“This was undoubtedly our biggest test so far this season and we knew nothing but our best would be good enough, and that’s exactly what we played,” he said.
“The last 20 minutes of the first half were tough and we allowed Barnsley back into the game, but after putting a few things right at the interval, we came out firing in the second half and got the decisive second goal which ultimately won us the game.”
The Wildcats will travel to Teeside to face California Ladies in the first round proper on Sunday 11 December, looking to extend their fairytale debut season.
Warburton, however, refuses to get carried away.
“Excitement is growing in the camp ahead of the first round, but the players know the importance of staying focused in order to get the right result,” he said.
Anticipation and expectation is growing within the Wildcats squad, with the added incentive of potentially drawing one of the game’s heavyweights, such as Arsenal Ladies FC, in the later rounds.
276 teams entered the FA Ladies Cup.
Meanwhile, Durham University Women’s Football team have enjoyed a 100% start to the BUCS season, and currently sit at the top of the Northern Premier 1A division.
Four dominant victories in the league, allied with an extraordinary 10-4 victory over Teeside 1sts in the BUCS trophy, have set DUWAFC up for a hugely successful season.
The Palatinates began their league campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over University of Central Lancashire 1sts at Maiden Castle, before travelling to Teeside and doubling their tally with a whopping 6-0 victory.