Durham and Palace... what is it with these two, eh? Leave them alone for a minute and they’re at each other's necks.
Last season the Eagles were left battered, bruised, and whining on Twitter about some robust but ostensibly fair challenges from the hard-tackling Wearsiders. This time out the university-backed side went even more town and a lot less gown as both players and coaches took “chucking out time on the night of the Miner’s Gala” as their college Halloween ball theme, and the mayhem unleashed still hasn’t subsided.
The big flashpoint was a moment when Fran Kitching, who by all accounts had been the recipient of some pretty nasty targeted verbal abuse from behind her goal, there were later unsubstantiated claims from some Londoners in attendance that she’d had her head slammed into pitch. But it was the Palace stopper who went in the book.
Cue a bit of a scrap on the pitch that has had the Sunday lunchtime tourists bemoaning the inevitable descent of women’s football to the base level of the men’s side of the game. Oh, won’t somebody think of the children!!!
All in all, this fixture is quickly becoming the Women’s Championship grudge match, and I absolutely love it for both its extreme pettiness and utter randomness.
As almost an aside, the game finished 0-1 to Palace, the difference between the two being a worldie from Anna Filby, and Durham’s promotion master plan looks to be falling apart quicker than a fresher’s first fling.
Elsewhere, the Bristol City bus rolled on towards the WSL trailed by a coachload of fans on a beano to the big smoke, Lewes gave Sunderland supporters an All-Souls Day fright as they left it pretty late to beat the increasingly forlorn Coventry United, and the records will show there was a game of association football played at Dartford FC, but nobody noticed.
Then, of course, there’s plucky old us. Almost 700 miles on the road, and with Tyler Dodd’s solo guitar performance still ringing in their ears, the Lasses went to St Mary’s and were unlucky not to bring a point back with them.
Emily Scarr is rapidly becoming a proper striker, her conversion from flying down the wing every week almost complete, and if it wasn’t for another stellar goalkeeping performance - this time from Southampton’s Kayla Rendell, she would have had at least a brace to her name in this match.
Our own Claudia Moan made what is, in my view, the save of the season and possibly the save of her career in the second half, poking out a boot on the line to deny the increasingly frustrated figure of [Ed: please insert “League Legend” here] Katie Wilkinson a first goal for the Saints.
The ‘keepers in the women’s game do come in for a hell of a lot of stick (unlike almost everyone else, I will not be commenting on the Hannah Hampton story), but also they need the credit for the amazing work they do.
Sunderland has only just employed a dedicated goalkeeper coach for the women’s setup, and these lasses have often gone all the way through youth football without ever receiving any of the specialist guidance and drills that their position deserves.
When even the boss of Manchester United is commenting upon the height of the Durham keeper Naoisha McAloon and suggesting his players should have been able to beat her easily (she saved two penalties to knock them out of the Conti Cup, by the way), you know we’ve still got a long way to go.
But the final word goes to Coventry United’s long-suffering radio commentator and Twitter hot-take merchant extraordinaire, Paul Wheeler. Sat in a studio somewhere in the Midlands with only the single camera setup to go by, his unique commentary of our match on the FA Player was a refreshing change from both the “Match FX Only” option provided on the Sunderland AFC Twitter feed and the polished but prosaic fare we’re often served up at this level.
Of course, it helps that Roker Report got multiple shout-outs along with our marras on the All Saints podcast during the game, but it’s genuinely great to hear someone with a real passion for and insider knowledge of this fantastic league getting the opportunity to build a career on the back of his tireless work. Bravo, mate.
This article was amended to make clear that no assault was committed against Fran Kitching in the Durham v Palace game.