A spirited second half display wasn’t enough for Durham Women as they fell to defeat at Sheffield United.
Lucy Watson’s free-kick and a Jess Clarke brace were enough for the Blades, despite Iris Achterhof’s goal after the interval.
The Wildcats were unchanged from the side that beat Watford in their opening game of the FA Women’s Championship season, and Durham came up against a Sheffield United side who raced out the traps.
And they took the lead with just seven minutes on the clock as Watson curled home a fine free-kick from distance.
It was the hosts who continued to put on the pressure in the opening stages as Megan Borthwick had to parry over another venomous Watson strike.
But a second would come from the resultant corner as Clarke bundled home at the near post.
Mollie Lambert then curled a strike just wide as Durham looked to retaliate before Liz Ejupi sent a header wide.
A two-goal deficit at the break seemed daunting, but the Wildcats came out with a renewed sense of purpose and created some early chances in the second half.
Beth Hepple forced Fran Kitching into a save while Ejupi saw a shot charged down, but hopes of a comeback were dealt a blow when Clarke again forced the ball home from a set play.
That didn’t deter Durham though who, via some attacking changes, looked to put their hosts under pressure.
And hopes of a comeback were sparked when substitute Achterhof fired home from inside the area after a deep cross.
Ejupi then saw a shot deflect narrowly wide of the post while another substitute, Abby Holmes, saw an effort kept out by Kitching.
There were some late chances and some promising moments, but Durham couldn’t find a goal to spark the contest back into life – and will now look to bounce back against Charlton Athletic next weekend.
Durham XI: Borthwick, Hill, Briggs (Holmes 64), Lambert (Bradley 79), Wilson, Robson, Hepple, Salicki (Crosthwaite 79), Christon (Galloway 58), Roberts (Briggs 64), Ejupi
Subs not used: Mackain, Johnson, Brown
Goals: Achterhof 68