REPORT: Crystal Palace 1-4 Durham

Beth Hepple’s hat-trick helped Durham Women round-off 2019 with a stunning away triumph at Crystal Palace.

The midfielder’s stunning treble and Becky Salicki’s bundled finish handed the Wildcats a deserved victory at Hayes Lane after a dominant performance – with Amber Stobbs’ strike merely a consolation.

Lee Sanders made four changes as more injury woe saw his side ravaged, but the visitors started the quickest at Bromley.

Sarah Robson glanced a header wide from a corner before Lisa Robertson saw a curling effort held by opposition stopper Lucy Gillett.

And a deserved breakthrough would come on 11 minutes as Nicki Gears was tripped on the edge of the area – Hepple stepping-up to send the free-kick into the top corner.

Gears then almost doubled the advantage shortly after but saw her effort hacked off the line by former Wildcat Annabel Johnson.

Palace scarcely threatened, but they did come close through Cherelle Khassal who forced Megan Borthwick into a fairly routine stop.

Hepple would double the lead midway through the half as she rifled home from the edge of the box after a cross wasn’t fully cleared by the hosts.

The same player then came close to securing her hat-trick before the interval as the midfielder’s dipping volley came back off the crossbar.

But a third would come as the game approached half-time, with Salicki bundling home a corner at the far post to extend the lead to three.

The second period was far less eventful, although Palace did press forward in search of the goal that could spark a comeback.

Bianca Baptiste saw an effort held by Borthwick before Leeta Rutherford fired over from distance.

Abby Holmes fashioned one of Durham’s better openings but saw her low shot held after she had forced her way to the byline.

Molly Sharpe was then denied by Gillett before Palace pulled a goal back – Stobbs seeing a low shot creep under Borthwick and over the line.

The Wildcats had to withstand some late pressure, but secured the three points late on as Hepple converted from the spot after Achterhof was hauled down.

Victory keeps Durham well in the race for top spot ahead of the Christmas break.

Durham XI: Borthwick; Holmes, Christon, Robson, Salicki; Greenwood (Weithofer 87), Robertson, Hepple; Gears, Achterhof (Manders 88), Sharpe (Bell 80)

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