Durhams first ever fixture in the FA WSL 2 ended in thrilling fashion as they fell to North East rivals Sunderland 4-2.
Despite the result the Wildcats put up a fight against a strong Sunderland side who many believe are favourites to win this league.
Sunderland had taken the lead in the 27th minute through Abbey Joice who capped off a fantastic run with a calm finish to slot the ball home. Just before the whistle blew for half-time the Lady Black Cats doubled their advantage when Kelly Greenwell’s free kick looped over Hill to give them a two-goal lead.
It was the home side that got themselves back in the game when Zoe Ness’ vision saw Helen Alderson off the line. From 40-yards out Ness’ powerful shot sailed into the back of the net.
But almost immediately Sunderland had added another and this time it was from the penalty spot, which gave Mead her second of the game.
Gemma Wilson sealed the fourth goal for the Lady Black Cats when her side volley went into the back of the net.
There was still time for an exciting finish to the match when Durham where awarded their own penalty. Up stepped Caroline Dixon, club captain, to calmly send Alderson the wrong way.
This was a historic fixture between the two sides as they were both making their competitive debut in the FA WSL2. A crowd of 716 people turned out to watch the two sides and Durham began brightly with link up play between Stacy Crooks and Ness but Sunderland were alert to the threat and cleared.
Sunderland grew into the game and it wasn’t long before they strung a number of chances together to send a warning sign to the Wildcats. Excellent defending from centre-back Jen King kept the Wildcats in the game and their prolific striker Beth mead at bay.
The first goal came just before the half hour mark when Mead and Joice combined in a one-two that saw the latter break through into the box with a strong strike to give the away side the lead.
After taking the lead, Sunderland dominated the first half and forced Durham into a goalmouth scramble after a corner where the Wildcats cleared off the line before watching the ball sail wide of the post.
Durham could have easily found themselves level when Ellie Christon’s cross from deep flew into the box to meet the head of Caroline Dixon only for Laws to claim the ball to avert the danger.
However play was stopped when Laws and Beth Jennings challenged for a bouncing ball outside the area, which resulted in a lengthy delay to treat the injured Sunderland keeper. Fellow goalkeeper Helen Alderson replaced her.
On the stroke of half-time Sunderland doubled their advantage when Kelly Greenwell’s looping free kick dipped over the head of Danielle Hill and into the back of the net.
Half-time and Sunderland led 2-0.
The second half saw Durham take the game to Sunderland and they achieved this in emphatic fashion when Zoe Ness spotted Helen Alderson off her line and struck a shot from 40-yards out that thundered into the net.
But they were pegged back in the 56th minute when Mead got her second of the match. Lauren Jordinson’s minimal contact with the striker in the box saw the referee point for a penalty.
Gemma Wilson then got in on the scoring when from a Sunderland corner and her side volley made it 4-1 to the visitors.
Mead was denied at point-blank range late in the second half after Hill got her left hand down quickly to mer the strikers first-time shot.
There was still time for an exciting finish to this match and the introduction of substitute Yasmine Hardy and Rosie Young seemed to be causing the Sunderland defence problems. None more so than Wilson who fouled Young in the box to give Durham a penalty; Dixon sent Alderson the wrong to make the score 4-2 to Sunderland.
Durham continued to press for another goal but time was not on their side as the referee signaled full-time and they fell 4-2 to lose their opening fixture of the WSL campaign.