For the first half the game remained largely balanced between the two sides, with Durham arguably having more possession, but it was Sunderland who were trying to create opportunities. Sunderland won a corner in the opening 15 minutes and put Durham keeper, Megan Borthwick to the test when Emma Kelly curled the ball into the box and Neve Herron hit the ball on the half-volley just inside the box on her left foot.
Borthwick had to react quickly and dive full stretch to save the shot which was eventually cleared out by Durham. The shot could have easily taken a deflection of any of the numerous players in the box. Neve Herron became involved later on in the first half when she received the ball out towards the left wing and began to counter Durham. Herron played through a lovely ball for Emily Scarr to run onto and almost found herself through on goal until the Durham defence managed to get back in time, to pressure her shot over the bar.
Slightly later it was Sunderland who were left scrambling when Charlotte Potts and Claudia Moan miscommunicated and a backpass to Moan was not cleared properly, almost allowing Durham’s Sarah Robson in. However, Potts made up for her error and put her body on the line to stop Robson’s shot. Injuring herself in the process.
Just before half time, Emma Kelly played in a great through ball along the right wing for Emily Scarr to run onto, however, Scarr had two defenders to get past. Scarr took the shot on, but it was struck directly at the well placed Moan. Perhaps if Scarr had held the ball up just a few seconds longer, she would’ve noticed the on-running teammate trying to get into the box and who would have been unmarked and open to receive the pass.
In the final moments of the half, Emma Kelly sent in a long freekick from Sunderland’s half and into the box. The ball was headed backwards by the Durham defence for Jessica Brown to pounce on, but unfortunately, her shot hit the side netting.
After the half-time break, the pendulum shifted and Durham came out with renewed vigour and determination. A poor half by their own admission, the Wildcats showed why they are a title contender in this league and began the attack. It’s worth noting that Charlotte Potts came off for Iris Achterhof following her injury in the first half. In the 57th minute, Ex-Sunderland midfielder, Mollie Lambert went on a long run down the left flank and was fouled by Faye Mullen just outside of the box.
Durham’s Beth Hepple stepped up and curled the ball over the Sunderland wall and into the bottom left corner, despite Claudia Moan’s best efforts to keep it out. Watching from the stands, I felt like Moan could have done better, but since watched the highlights, it was her wall that let her down by not jumping.
It was always going to be difficult for Sunderland to get back into the game after Durham scored, especially with Durham not conceding in their last three fixtures. Sunderland had to try and survive Durham’s constant attack following the goal and their defender, Abby Holmes almost made it 2-0 when she struck the ball from a tight angle on the right-hand side. The ball looked destined to go over the bar before it began dipping slowly into the net, however, Claudia Moan managed to get a fingertip save to the ball to keep it out of the goal. But despite, Moan’s best efforts to keep the score to a one-goal margin, Durham made it 2-0 in the 76th minute when Beth Hepple won the header from a Sunderland goal kick and headed it to teammate Emily Roberts. Roberts played in a great through ball in between the Durham backline, which Mollie Lambert dispatched into the top right corner.
Lambert almost made it 3-0 moments later when she went on a long unchallenged run. She took the shot off just outside the box which looked to go into the bottom left corner, however, Claudia Moan denied Lambert with an excellent full-stretch save to keep it out. This was the last of the action before Durham were content to sit back behind the ball and see out their 2-0 win. Their fourth consecutive 2-0 win since their loss to Sheffield.
It was very much a tale of two halves in this Wear Derby. Sunderland had plenty of opportunities to penalise Durham’s high defensive line with through balls, but were not clinical enough in front of goal to fully test Borthwick. Had Sunderland taken the lead, I think the outcome of the game would have been very different and having the home advantage of 865 in the crowd, would have spurred the side on.
Undoubtedly, Sunderland were quite lost after halftime after losing the commanding and calming presence of Charlotte Potts. The side couldn’t quite retain the same level of possession that they had in the first half and looked to lose their attacking edge, with limited opportunities and threats on goal in the second half. Defender Louise Griffiths and Abbey Joice did display good performances throughout the game, but unfortunately, their efforts couldn’t bear fruit.
The girls will go again this Thursday in a cup game away to Sheffield United, who are title contenders in the league.
Sunderland AFC: Moan; Herron, Mullen, McCatty, Griffiths, Ramshaw ©, Scarr, Brown (Farrugia 59’), Kelly, Joice (Manders 80’), Potts (Actherhof 45’)
Unused Subs: Cowling, Blakey, McInnes, Beer
Durham Women: Borthwick, Hill, Salicki, Christon (Holmes 55’), Wilson ©, Robson, Hepple (Brown 82’), Bradley, Briggs, Lambert, Galloway (Roberts 71’)
Unused Subs: Mackain, Johnson