Durham Women kicked-off 2020 with a hard-fought win over Leicester City.
Molly Sharpe’s audacious strike proved the difference in a cagey encounter with few clear-cut chances.
The Wildcats made just one change from the side that beat Crystal Palace before Christmas as Kathryn Hill returned to the fold – and they started on top.
Indeed, the hosts were almost ahead after nine minutes when Abby Holmes found Beth Hepple in the area, with her shot hacked off the line by Nat Johnson.
In an end-to-end contest, both sides tried to trade early blows with Holly Morgan firing wide for the Foxes and Molly Sharpe seeing a lofted shot drop just the wrong side of the crossbar.
But Sharpe wouldn’t squander her next sight of goal as she seized on a lapse in concentration in the Leicester backline and, having spotted stopper Demi Lambourne off her line, the striker rolled the ball home from 40 yards.
Chances were at a premium following the breakthrough – although Nicki Gears did see a teasing cross parried away before Sharpe could connect.
Beth Hepple then stung the palms of Lambourne after the break, with the midfielder also sending an effort agonisingly wide in a competitive second half.
Leicester did well to weather an early storm from the hosts in the second period, and had two golden chances to snatch a point as the game wore on.
First substitute Libby Smith saw an effort parried around the post by Megan Borthwick, before Annabel Blanchard then fired wide at the back post having been picked out in space.
There was to be no late leveller, though, as the Wildcats clung on to seal an important three points.
Durham XI: Borthwick, Hill, Robson, Hepple, Sharpe (Manders), Gears, Achterhof (Dale), Salicki, Christon, Greenwood (Cox), Holmes
Durham subs not used: Reid, Weithofer
Referee: Emily Carney