Durham Wildcats advanced into the third round of the women’s FA Cup after an emphatic giant-killing of Sheffield Wednesday WFC.
A stunning 4-1 triumph in South Yorkshire ensures another memorable chapter has been written in the Wildcats’ debut season, as they extended their cup run in spectacular fashion.
As the lowest ranked team left in the competition, the Wildcats travelled to Northern Combination League heavyweights Sheffield Wednesday as rank underdogs.
But a resounding first-half performance, in which Durham established an unassailable 3-1 lead, was the basis for the club’s most remarkable victory to date.
The reward is a mouth-watering tie against Women’s Premier League side Preston LFC in the third round on Sunday, 5 February, which will be played at Brewery Field.
Just as they had in the first round against California Ladies, the Wildcats started the game brightly and broke the deadlock with just seven minutes on the clock.
Laura Stockdale lobbed the ‘keeper from the edge of the box after a perfectly executed set-piece, and for the next twenty minutes Durham dominated territory and possession.
The relentless pressure finally told when defender Anna Faux capitalised on Wednesday’s failure to deal with yet another corner by slotting home from six yards.
In under half an hour Durham had twice breached the Wednesday defence, despite being without injured top-scorer Hannah Beard.
Her replacement Elise McLear looked consistently dangerous, but Wednesday recovered from a slack opening half-hour and soon pulled a deserved goal back – suddenly the tie was hanging in the balance.
But the Wildcats have regularly thrived on pressure this season, and this was proven when Emily Clark won the ball in her own half and released Gemma Nortcliffe, who provided her customary ruthless finish to re-establish the two-goal cushion and drain the life out of Wednesday’s revival.
The second half was a ferociously competitive if scrappy affair, with Durham’s defence remaining stoic in the face of a determined Wednesday onslaught.
Jess Quador exemplified the resolute defensive effort with a goal-line clearance, while Laura Stockdale made countless crucial challenges to keep Wednesday at bay.
Elise McLear then provided the quality at the other end of the pitch with a delightful left-foot chip to effectively kill the contest after 75 minutes, a goal that booked Durham’s place in the third round.
Captain Maeve Clarke says the team is “eagerly anticipating” the third round.
“The whole squad and coaching staff deserve praise for what was a fantastically spirited team performance – this competition has been great for us this season,” she added.
The Wildcats have now scored 25 goals in the FA Cup, conceding only twice.
Preston North End will visit Brewery Field – setting for two Wildcat FA Cup victories already this season – on Sunday, 5 February for a titanic third-round clash.