REPORT: Durham 5-2 Coventry United

Beth Hepple’s hat-trick on her 150th appearance helped Durham Women to victory in their FA Women’s Continental Tyres Cup opener.

Hepple’s treble was added to by strikes from Molly Sharpe and Bridget Galloway as the Wildcats overcame a determined Coventry United.

Both teams made a host of changes for the Group A opener, with Durham handing a debut to young defender Grace Ayre.

And the vast number of changes in both teams perhaps led to the disjointed start which saw neither team able to really stamp their authority on the game – Emily Roberts having the best chance of the opening ten minutes as she curled into the arms of Sue Wood.

But it was the visitors who struck first, pouncing quickly after a poor clearance to allow Helen Dermody to fire home from range.

Durham quickly looked to retaliate, with Sharpe firing over following a flowing move and Galloway seeing an effort well-held by Wood after she had cut inside.

An equaliser looked inevitable – and it was no surprise that it came via the boot of top scorer Hepple, who turned home Ellie Christon’s low cross at the near post.

It would get better for Durham before the break too, with Georgia Popple’s shove on Sarah Wilson handed the hosts a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Hepple duly converted, sending Wood the wrong way from the spot.

The Wildcats continued their dominance after the interval, with Wood making a smart stop to deny Galloway as she sought her first goal for the club.

A third would eventually come, albeit in strange circumstances. Sharpe’s cross looked for all intents and purposes to have gone behind the goal, only to creep into the top corner and nestle in the back of the net.

And before the hour mark, it would be four – Hepple completing her hat-trick with a well-struck free-kick from the edge of the area.

That three-goal cushion allowed Durham to rotate their squad further, with winger Lily Crosthwaite and stopper Brooke Mackain both handed senior debuts.

And there was little the latter could do about Coventry’s consolation goal – a well-struck effort from Becky Anderson who quickly took a free-kick.

It mattered little in the end, though, as Galloway rounded-off the scoring with the Wildcats’ fifth as she turned home Crosthwaite’s cross at the back post to grab her first for the club.

The win moves Durham to the top of Group A with one fixture played.

Durham XI: Borthwick (Mackain), Briggs, Wilson, Hepple (Crosthwaite), Sharpe, Galloway, Salicki, Christon, Roberts (Atkinson), Ayre (Hill), Lee (Robson)

Subs not used: Gears, Greenwood

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