I woke up on the morning of the match with those first day of the season nerves. We’d made good signings in Dodds, Gears, Holmes, Westrup and Brown, but would they hit the ground running? To add to the nerves, it was a River Wear Derby.
Back in April, we didn’t cope with their physical play - could we do it today?
I shouldn’t have been worried.
The lasses started brightly and were getting stuck in all over the pitch, with new signing Tyler Dodds shooting wide early on. Watched by an excellent crowd of 1668, who created a good atmosphere, with a healthy following of Sunderland fans amongst them.
Against the run of play, Durham debutant Noonan scored. The Sunderland keeper and defenders will know they should have done better.
In the 17th minute we were level, this time another debutant, Westrup with the goal. The Durham players felt the keeper was impeded, which is actually funny, as they’re often doing that to their opponents.
Sunderland were playing well against their full time hosts, and the ref’s whistle went after an entertaining 45 minutes.
The second half kicked off while I was making easy work of my coffee and cheeseburger. The diet of an athlete.
Durham looked better, partly due to Sarah Robson moving from the centre of defence to midfield, and former Sunderland player Mollie Lambert went close to scoring her now obligatory goal against Sunderland. Durham forward Clarke spent some of her time going down too easy, and was booked.
Manager Mel Reay freshened it up by bringing Watson and Joice on to try and give Durham a different threat, as they were on top. The tenacious Holmes was withdrawn on 81 minutes after a superb second debut for the club - a nice reminder, if they needed it, of how she’s a physical and tough competitor.
Durham looked more likely to win it in the second half, but the referee blew the whistle on an intriguing and hard-fought derby. I went away thinking that we looked improved from last season, and as for Durham, I’m just not sure.
We’ll all see as the season goes on.
Claudia Moan 6/10 - Made some good saves, but maybe could have done better for the goal.
Abby Holmes 8/10 - She set her stall out from the first whistle to bring that physicality to our team. Durham’s loss, our gain.
Grace McCatty 7/10 - Solid as ever. Didn’t do much wrong.
Brianna Westrup 7/1 - A goal to top off an excellent debut.
Louise Griffiths 7/10 - She’s hard as nails. Good performance.
Emma Kelly 8/10 - A captain’s performance. Set the tone with Holmes, that we weren’t going to be rolled over.
Danielle Brown 7/10 - showed she should have been given more minutes at Durham last season.
Grace Ede 7/10 - A good performance. Looked very tidy. Only going to get better.
Emily Scarr 6/10 - Showed flashes of her quality. Worked hard.
Tyler Dodds 7/10 - caused Durham problems in the first half. Looked a threat.
Nicki Gears 6/10 - good debut. Worked hard and will get better game by game.
Abbey Joice, Katy Watson and Megan Beer 6/10 - All found it difficult to make an impact. Watson nearly got free after a nice run.
Player of the Match -
Emma Kelly - She was the beating heart of the midfield, some real quality on the ball.