By James Reid
Twelve of the Durham Women squad which finished second in last season’s Women’s Championship will remain at Maiden Castle for at least the 2021/22 season.
The club has announced a number of new contracts over the past few weeks, most recently announcing the retention of goalkeeper Megan Borthwick, winger Danielle Brown, and forward Emily Roberts on Friday.
This comes after the announcement of nine other new contracts, beginning with the key trio of captain Sarah Wilson, Ellie Christon, and last season’s top scorer Beth Hepple.
This has been added to by new contracts for midfielders Lauren Briggs, Mollie Lambert, and Sarah Robson, defenders Becky Salicki and Kathyrn Hill, and forward Bridget Galloway.
It means that despite having made no new signings as yet this summer, manager Lee Sanders will be able to call on the vast majority of the squad that went unbeaten in the league until March last season.
Borthwick, who has been at the club since 2016, jointly won the Championship’s Golden Glove award last season as Durham kept 10 clean sheets in the league.
She will once again be a key part of a Durham defence that was imperious last season, and is further boosted by new contracts for Sarah Wilson, Becky Salicki, Ellie Christon, and Kathryn Hill.
It is a defensive unit on which much of Durham’s success has been built and Borthwick is looking forward to next season.
“To be staying at Durham for the upcoming season is something I’m extremely happy with. I feel that the club and everyone involved is working towards something special and I want to be a part of that.”
Indeed, the retention of so many players from last season is a real sign of intent from the Wildcats as they aim to go one better next season and win promotion to the Women’s Super League for what would be the first time in their history.
Kathryn Hill said that “After finishing second we have to be aiming to win the league”, while fellow defender Ellie Christon echoed such comments stating that “I think we definitely have what it takes to get promoted and compete against the very best every week.”
And Durham’s bid for promotion has been bolstered not only by the retention of its backline but also of a number of key midfielders and forwards.
Midfielders Lauren Briggs – who also impressively deputised at left-back for parts of last season – the experienced Sarah Robson, and all-action Mollie Lambert will all return to Maiden Castle next season.
Both Briggs and Robson are familiar faces at Durham, while Lambert joined from Sunderland last season, soon establishing herself as a first-team regular.
Lambert has been rewarded for her combative performances in the heart of midfield with a two-year contract, reflecting her increasing importance to the side.
Manager Lee Sanders commented that “Mollie is quickly establishing herself as a top midfield player in the league. She has fitted in with everyone at the club since joining us and we are all delighted she’s committed for another few seasons.”
Finally, Durham’s forward line has been boosted by new contracts for Emily Roberts, Danielle Brown, and Bridget Galloway.
Roberts, who can play across the forward line, has been blighted by injuries in recent seasons but has been very effective when fit scoring seven goals last season including crucial goals against Liverpool and Leicester City, with Sanders describing her as “one of the most exciting attacking players in the league.”
In addition, new signings from last season Danielle Brown and Bridget Galloway will both return in the blue of Durham next season.
Galloway enjoyed a debut season in which she grew into the side, becoming a key member of the side and popping up with a number of crucial goals such as those against Charlton, Lewes, and London Bees.
Brown joined the Wildcats in November 2020 and is another who slowly grew into the side, increasingly impressing with her performances on the wing, with Sanders seeing her as “another important signing for the club” signalling a more prominent role for the former Middlesbrough player in the 2021/22 season.
It leaves Lee Sanders with a largely settled squad going into the new campaign, enabling the Wildcats to retain the togetherness and team spirit that is so important to their performances as they target promotion.
Image: Durham Women FC