On a bright but breezy day at Maiden Castle, Sunderland Ladies looked to avenge their 2-0 defeat to Durham from earlier in the season in front of the home side’s biggest league crowd in their eight year history in Tier 2.
Maria Farrugia was missing from the Sunderland squad due to an injury picked up on international duty for Malta, and so Emily Scarr was employed as the lone striker with Abbey Joice filling in on the left wing. Jessica Brown moved into the right wing position with Faye Mullen coming into the defence.
A minutes’ applause was universally observed in memory of north east football stallwart Dominyka Podziute, who will be missed by all who played alongsider her and watched her turn out for clubs across our region.
Before the game had the chance to settle, former Sunderland player Mollie Lambert scored from just inside the box after a clever, flowing Durham move.
Sunderland were then thankful to keeper Claudia Moan, after some good play from Durham down their right side. Rio Hardy stinging the palms of the keeper, before Moan gathered at the second attempt.
As the game reached the midpoint of the half, Sunderland were able to find some nice passing moves without really threatening the Durham goal. Sunderland will have been glad to get to the half time break only 1-0 down, after never really getting going despite having a lot of the ball and much of the territory.
In the second half, Durham were again quick out of the blocks, Emily Roberts doing well to get free of the Sunderland defence, but firing over. However, Durham increased their lead though in the 51st minute, with Beth Hepple striking a free kick from distance that Moan couldn’t hold, and Dee Bradley scrambled it in to make it 2-0 to the home side.
Two minutes later the result was put beyond doubt, as Hepple made it 3-0 to Durham with a great strike from the edge of the box that left Moan with no chance.
After 60 minutes Emily Scarr gave the Durham defence problems with her trickery. Hill clearing the danger, before Durham nearly made it 4-0, but Moan made a great save to tip the ball around the post when Hepple ran through one-on-one.
Durham had plenty of experience on the bench and they used their options to tighten their grip on the game. Sunderland had a very youthful bench in comparison. One of those substitutes, Grace Ede, had a good effort well held by Durham keeper Naoisha McAloon, after 75 minutes.
Moan made another great stop from Hepple late on, tipping the ball over the bar to keep the score at 3-0 and it ended that way.
Overall, Sunderland put in one of their poorer performances of the season, in contrast to a Durham side who it was acknowledged put in one of their best. Durham have a lot of experience in their squad and it showed. However, the lasses will learn a lot from game - particuarly when it comes to the physical side of the game - and will be better for it going into next season.
Claudia Moan - 7/10
The ‘keeper some very good saves, and was the reason that the score remained respectable but she will be disappointed with their second goal.
Faye Mullen - 6/10
She stuck stuck to her task well throughout the game with no obvious errors.
Grace McCatty - 6/10
The experienced centre-back did well in difficult circumstances, but did spurn Sunderland’s clearest opportunity of the game with a header.
Megan Beer - 6/10
Partnered McCatty well, putting in some important tackles at crucial times.
Louise Griffiths - 6/10
A difficult day for the fullback against some class opposition, but she worked as hard as ever.
Emma Kelly - 6/10
Despite some nice touches and clever bits of play in the first half, and a lovely pass to set up Ede late on, but Durham ultimately dominated the midfield and she just couldn’t get going for long periods in the game.
Keira Ramshaw - 5/10
The skipper worked as hard as ever, but Durham were too strong on the day in the midfield and it wasn’t a surprise when she was subbed in the second half.
Abbey Joice - 6/10
Sunderland’s most positive play came from her, but her trickery and drive seemed to be less effective on the wing than it has been in the centre over recent weeks.
Neve Herron - 6/10
She was targeted for some late challenges throughout the game and came off after a coming together . Not sure how no Durham midfielder received a yellow card today.
Jess Brown - 5/10
Despie looking bright early on an finding a lot of space, she couldn’t get into the game as Durham began to dominate. But as with all of the team, her workrate was admirable before she was replaced by Watson.
Emily Scarr - 6/10
A hard afternoon’s work for a loan striker up against some of the hardest defenders in the league, but she showed some nice moments, both leading the line and covering back at crucial moments too.
Grace Ede - 7/10
Came on and for Ramshaw and looked bright. She had one opportunity running through on goal but it was comfortable for McAloon.
Katy Watson - 6/10
The young forward came on and worked hard, but didn’t have much chance to effect the game.
Holly Manders - n/a
Came on late to replace the injured Neve Herron.
Player of the Match - Claudia Moan
The goalkeeper made some very good saves throughout the game. She will no doubt be gutted about the second goal, but other than that moment she kept us in it.
In particular, she dealt with the swirling gusty wind to tip a couple of looping balls over or onto the crossbar in a way that showed clearly her development over the course of the season.