With 2021 about to come to a close, we take a look back at another year of progression for Durham Women FC.
From a record-league finish to record attendances – and with plenty of fine performances to note – here’s how the calendar year unfolded for the Wildcats…
The first month of the year saw Durham clock-up plenty of mileage, beginning with a 1-1 draw at Lewes as Bridget Galloway found the net.
That was followed by a narrow win at Crystal Palace, with Mollie Lambert’s first goal for the club securing a 1-0 win.
A midweek trip to West Ham United then followed as the Wildcats took part in the knockout stages of the FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup for the first time having progressed through their group.
And despite a spirited display in London, the top tier side ran out 3-0 winners on the night.
There was better news in the final game of the month though, as Galloway again found the net to secure a 1-0 win over London Bees.
This was a quiet month with just one fixture played – after snow caused the trip to London City Lionesses, scheduled for early in the month, to be postponed.
The game was eventually played on the final day of the month, with Emily Roberts’ header wrapping-up a 1-0 win at Princes Park to keep the Wildcats in promotion contention.
A tricky test at Blackburn was Durham’s first test in March, but it’s one the Wildcats overcame as second half goals from Bridget Galloway and Sarah Robson secured a 2-0 win at Bamber Bridge.
Defeat to eventual title winners Leicester City followed, before an Ali Johnson goal on her debut sealed a point against a strong Sheffield United side.
APRIL / MAY
Durham’s FA Cup campaign began at top tier side Everton.
Molly Sharpe’s fine strike had handed the Wildcats the lead but goals from Poppy Pattison and Nicoline Sorensen turned the tie on its head and saw the Toffees seal progression – in what was something of a harsh result after Durham more than matched their opponents.
A league defeat at Charlton then followed, before a thumping 7-1 win over Coventry United ended the season – Kathryn Hill, Molly Sharpe, Beth Hepple (2), Bridget Galloway (2) and Abby Holmes netting.
That result secured a record-breaking second place finish for Durham, who also secured their highest-ever points total.
THE SUMMER MONTHS
Durham’s summer consisted of retaining the vast majority of last season’s successful squad.
There was just one new face arriving through the door as striker Liz Ejupi put pen to paper at Maiden Castle.
On the field, pre-season ended with an 8-0 win over Newcastle United as supporters returned to watch the side for the first time since February 2020.
An exciting new season awaited, with a host of clubs set to be competing for promotion…
The Wildcats kicked-off their league campaign with a win over Watford – Lauren Briggs and Beth Hepple netting in a 2-1 win.
The month began with a 3-1 defeat at Sheffield United, but Durham bounced back in style by beating Charlton Athletic and Bristol City.
Kathryn Hill and Beth Hepple netted in a 2-0 win over the Addicks, in what was a typically battling and energetic performance from the Wildcats.
Then Liz Ejupi and Hepple ensured it was the same scoreline in the South West.
Arguably the month of 2021.
A 2-0 win over Lewes kicked-off the month, with Ellie Christon and Bridget Galloway finding the net at Maiden Castle.
That was followed by a derby day triumph over Sunderland – with Beth Hepple and Mollie Lambert scoring the crucial goals in the club’s fourth straight 2-0 win.
A big night against Manchester United then followed, with Dee Bradley and Beth Hepple scoring as a sold-out and record-breaking crowd were treated to a 2-2 draw against the top tier side.
Bradley then found the net again as the month ended with a win over London City Lionesses.
It was a great month for our Academy team, too – who beat Everton 10-2 on aggregate to progress in the WSL Academy Cup!
A tricky month for Durham, who suffered defeats to Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Leicester City and Coventry United.
There were positives to be found in many of the performances though, and particularly in the emergence of a number of the club’s talented youngsters.
Brooke Mackain, Grace Ayre, Hannah Greenwood, Erin Nicholson and Lily Crosthwaite all stepped-up during November after injuries to senior players – with the latter even scoring her first goal for the club against Leicester City.
After a narrow defeat to top tier side Everton in their final FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup game, Durham returned to winning ways with a 6-0 win at Leeds United in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup.
And the year ended with a superb 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers – Abby Holmes netting a brace and Becky Salicki volleying home.
2021 IN NUMBERS
Games Played: 27
Games Won: 14
Games Drawn: 4
Games Lost: 9
Top Scorer: Beth Hepple (9)