REPORT: Durham 2-0 Crystal Palace

Beth Hepple’s well-taken brace saw Durham Women continue their unbeaten start to the season – at the expense of Crystal Palace.

The midfielder took her tally for the season to ten with a free-kick either side of half-time as the Wildcats controlled large spells of the contest at Maiden Castle.

Lee Sanders made two changes from the midweek win over Coventry United with Kathryn Hill and Sarah Robson coming into the side.

And the Wildcats began brightly, with visiting stopper Chloe Morgan twice doing well to claim low crosses ahead of Bridget Galloway.

Morgan would be called into action again to deny Molly Sharpe and Sarah Robson as Durham piled on the pressure, but it was Palace who would come closest in the early stages.

First Bianca Baptiste saw her low drive tipped around the post by Borthwick, before the Durham stopper twice stood strong to deny Cherelle Khassal after she had broken into the area.

But having weathered that storm, the Wildcats took the lead on the stroke of half-time.

After a foul on Sharpe on the corner of the box, Hepple sent a powerful free-kick into the roof of the net.

The second half was a far more controlled one for Durham, who set about looking to extend their lead.

Lauren Briggs, impressive throughout in the centre of the park, fired a volley wide from 30 yards before Hepple saw a header clip the bar.

But she wouldn’t have to wait long for her second of the afternoon – firing an unstoppable free-kick from 25 yards into the top corner.

Borthwick then did well to deny Baptiste from 20 yards, but that would be as close as Palace would come to reducing the deficit.

Indeed, Durham could have extended their margin of victory in the final minutes.

Sarah Robson flashed a header narrowly wide before Hepple sent another free-kick inches over the bar as the Wildcats ramped-up the pressure.

Substitute Nicki Gears came closest to adding a third, only for Morgan to manage to tip her effort wide after Rachel Lee had picked out the forward.

Two goals were enough for the Wildcats, though, who continue their unbeaten start to the season.

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

Subs not used: Reid, Lambert

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