REPORT: Durham 2-3 Crystal Palace

Durham Women suffered defeat in their first game of 2022 – despite creating numerous chances against an in-form Crystal Palace.

The Wildcats started brightly and took an early lead through Beth Hepple, before goals from Molly Sharpe and Lizzie Waldie turned the game on its head.

Kathryn Hill then drew the Wildcats level again but Siobhan Wilson’s second half strike proved enough for the Eagles.

After seeing their clash with Lewes postponed last weekend, Durham started the game like a coiled spring and came close in the opening minutes – Danielle Brown seeing a powerful strike palmed over by Emily Orman.

And the hosts wouldn’t have to wait long for an opener, as Hepple slotted home from inside the area after a cut-back from Abby Holmes.

Palace almost struck back immediately as Leanne Cowan saw an effort whistle narrowly wide, but they were indebted to their goalkeeper in the opening exchanges.

Orman first denied Hepple from a dipping free-kick, before Bradley’s header from a corner landed just the wrong side of the crossbar.

The visiting stopper was then again called into action to deny Hepple after she pounced on a loose ball – and the significance of those saves would become apparent when Palace drew level.

After Durham failed to clear their lines, Sharpe swept into the far corner to bring the game level.

That buoyed the Eagles, who then took the lead when Waldie steered home a corner at the back post.

But their lead would be short-lived as the Wildcats scored from a corner themselves – Hill prodding home after Palace couldn’t clear their lines.

Briggs then saw a curler held by Orman as the hosts ended the half stronger, but with just five minutes on the clock after the restart Palace regained their advantage.

A low cross couldn’t be cleared and Wilson was on hand to fire home.

Liz Ejupi almost brought Durham immediately level with an audacious effort from the halfway line that dropped narrowly over the bar, before the striker turned provider and teed-up Briggs – only for Orman to again intervene and push the ball away.

The Wildcats saw plenty of the ball late on but struggled to carve out any real openings, with the Eagles heading back to South London with the points.

Durham XI: Borthwick, Hill, Briggs, Lambert, Robson, Hepple, Galloway (Ejupi 46), Salicki, Bradley, Brown (Hardy 69), Holmes (Christon 87)

Subs not used: McAloon, Wilson, Roberts, Greenwood

Goals: Hepple 7, Hill 35

Booking: Holmes 53

Attendance: 435

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