Durham Women ended their Continental Cup campaign with a narrow defeat at Aston Villa.
Jordan Atkinson has handed the Wildcats the lead after they dominated the early exchanges, but Natasha Baptiste forced home an equaliser before the break.
Strikes from Ebony Salmon and Eizabeta Ejupi then sealed victory for the Villains with Zoe Ness’ late goal a mere consolation.
The game was a dead rubber for both sides with neither able to progress, although there was the added incentive of gaining the upper hand ahead of the league meeting between the pair next weekend.
And it was Durham who started brightly with Atkinson denied by home stopper Sian Rogers after a fine run from Emily Roberts.
Rogers then again came to Villa’s rescue when she spectacularly tipped Beth Hepple’s goal bound effort onto the crossbar after the midfielder had looked to convert Ness’ low cross.
But the Villa keeper would eventually be beaten with 21 minutes on the clock.
Gears did well down the left as she found some space and clipped a cross in to the far post where Atkinson was able to tap home into the empty net.
The lead barely lasted ten minutes though, with the hosts back on the level terms before the break as Baptiste forced the ball home from close range.
Durham’s Megan Borthwick was then called into action when she had to deny Salmon as the Midlanders ended the first half strongly.
Villa continued to look strong after the break with Jodie Hutton firing over from 12 yards before Ejupi fired straight into the arms of Borthwick from range.
It seemed a goal was coming though and it eventually did after the hour mark – Salmon seeing her initial effort parried by Borthwick before the forward reacted quickest to fire into the top corner.
And Salmon could have had a second moments later were it not for a fine save from Borthwick who tipped her effort around the post after she had fashioned some space in the area.
The chances continued to fall for Villa with Hutton seeing a powerful effort cannon back off the post before Salmon repeated the trick as she drove forward and clipped the ball past Borthwick only to see it roll off the post and away.
There was to be a third for the hosts though as Ejupi got in on the act, as the striker saw an effort squirm in at the near post after Durham failed to fully clear danger.
Yet there was to be a glimmer of hope for the Wildcats as Ness found a second late on – the striker steering the ball home after some confusion in the Villa backline presented her with an opportunity.
But it proved to be only a consolation and saw Durham end their Continental Cup campaign in defeat.
The Wildcats, though, have the ideal opportunity to bounce back next weekend when Villa visit New Ferens Park in FA WSL 2.