League leaders Durham continued their strong start to the FA Women’s Championship with a hard-fought 2-1 win at London Bees.
A highly-competitive game at The Hive was not reflected in both teams’ positions in the table though. Mollie Lambert’s terrific work set Molly Sharpe to bury the winning goal early into the second half to ensure Durham maintained their unbeaten start to the season.
Durham Stay Top of Women’s Championship With Win Over London Bees
Durham began the game with a fast start and set out to target the Bees’ high defensive line.
The visitors saw an early penalty claim waved away by referee Peter Conn. Nicki Gears latched onto clipped pass and raced into the box but was closed down by Bees goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill, who was deemed to have got the slightest of touches on the ball.
The Bees, who are yet to win in the Championship this season, started the game toe-to-toe against the league leaders and created their first chance of the game on 20 minutes. Sophie McLean countered but was fouled on the edge of the box to give the hosts an opportunity in a dangerous area.
Charlie Estcourt stepped up and lashed the free-kick past Durham goalkeeper Megan Borthwick into the top corner, who had little chance of saving.
However, Durham set off quickly to level the game at the restart. Emily Roberts connected with a cross from Mollie Lambert to force a smart stop from Quantrill.
The league leaders broke through with the resulting corner – Beth Hepple’s teasing cross was bundled in by Becky Salicki after a scramble in the six-yard box to make the game 1-1.
The quick equaliser didn’t impact the Bees’ spirit as they came close again with another free-kick from Estcourt. The midfielder took a speculative effort from slightly further out which went narrowly over Borthwick’s crossbar.
Durham Edge Bees Out
Durham came out into the second half as they did in the first, and their second goal came just six minutes in.
Lambert, who had been a thorn in Lee Burch’s side all afternoon, slipped a low cross from the left wing to find Molly Sharpe who fired an effort past Quantrill on 53 minutes.
The visitors pressed for another through Championship top-scorer Hepple who forced another excellent save from Quantrill, who kept the Bees within touching distance.
Chances came at a premium for the hosts but they had a big chance to equalise on 73 minutes. Lauren Pickett’s hard work down the left opened up a sight of goal, but Borthwick stood tall to deny the former Tottenham Hotspur forward.
Durham continued to search for a third and Quantrill was again called into action. Sharpe came close to adding her second of the game but the Bees goalkeeper rushed out quickly to deny the forward.
Sarah Robson’s glancing header from a corner came crashing back off the crossbar, while Lily Crosthwaite flashed a shot wide from a quick counter-attack.
The hosts pressed tirelessly to find an equaliser but Durham held on to claim all three points to stay top of the Championship.
Durham manager Lee Sanders will undoubtedly be pleased with his side’s dogged performance to make it four wins from six in the Championship.
The league leaders fashioned plenty of good chances against a struggling London Bees side, who were desperate to record their first points of the season. Quantrill in the Bees goal produced a series of important saves to thwart the visitors, which on another day may have been finished.
The Bees put in a spirited performance against a Durham side which has started the season fast out the blocks. Lee Burch’s team more-than gave a good account of themselves but will feel disappointed leave empty-handed after forcing Durham to dig deep at The Hive.