By Ben Fleming
A second half strike by Bridget Galloway saw Durham Women remain unbeaten and level at the top of the Women’s Championship as they defeated London Bees 1-0 at Maiden Castle.
The forward’s fifth goal of the season was enough to overcome the London side in what was a gritty and hard-fought victory for the home side following a disappointing first 45 minutes.
Without a doubt it was the London Bees who started the game much the brighter of the two sides, pressing high and winning a number of corners with Bortwhick alert to clutch onto Brook’s header from one of the resulting corners. Ten minutes the procession of corners nearly paid dividends as Gibson redirected a shot onto the bar and almost in had it not been for Mollie Lambert’s clearance off the line.
As Durham began to gain control of possession, it was still Bees who offered the more potent threat with their fast-paced and intricate counterattacks from their mobile front three. Had it not been for the alert goalkeeping of Borthwick, rushing out to smother through balls, and a block from Wilson, then the Bees front three of Nunn, Hazard and Mclean could have all found the scoresheet.
A long-range effort from Sarah Wilson and a freekick over the bar from Beth Hepple were the closest Durham came to testing Sarah Quantrill in the Bees goal in the first half. The sounds of a crying baby on its Sunday riverside walk next to Maiden Castle felt somewhat symbolic of what was a very poor first half for the wildcats.
A half time switch of formation, with Holmes moving to left back and Lauren Briggs moving into midfield, saw Durham line up in a 4-2-3-1 rather than a 3-4-3 with the change paying dividends immediately. Danielle Brown, combining well with Briggs down the right-hand side, managed to send a cross low into the box, with Bridget Galloway on hand to toe-poke it in and give Durham the lead.
Durham continued to pile on the control and pressure as the second half rolled on. The addition of Briggs in the centre of midfield and the commanding presence of Holmes at left back ensuring that Durham weren’t facing as much threat on the break from the London side, who found themselves increasingly camped inside their own half.
Durham kept pushing into the second half seeking the second goal to kill off the game. Emily Roberts’ shot on the spin was well saved by Quantrill whilst Brown’s good work and cut back on the right-hand side was met but blazed over by Mollie Lambert in midfield.
Ultimately, a second goal didn’t manifest itself and Durham, in typical fashion, stayed resolute and to see out the game. Cries of handball from the London Bees bench was the only scary moment for the home side in the closing stages as they saw out the 1-0 victory for a vital win.
With Leicester scoring late to win over Liverpool, Durham’s victory keeps the join top of the league with the midlands club on thirty-two points, albeit with the inferior goal difference. Speaking to Palatinate after the game, goal scorer Bridget Galloway recognised the “difficult game” and the improved second half performance.
“As soon as we got the goal, we took control of the game and other chances. It could have been three, four, [to nil] in the end.” Durham next face a trip down to London, this time to take on London City as they look to keep their unbeaten season and title challenge intact.
Durham XI: Borthwick, Hill (Holmes 45), Briggs, Lambert (Lee 90), Wilson, Hepple, Galloway (Sharpe 80), Salicki, Christon, Roberts (Gears 80), Brown (Bradley 90)
Subs not used: Reid, Ayre, Crosthwaite, Greenwood
Goals: Galloway (51)
Image: George Ledger