Durham Women secured second spot in the FA Women’s Championship with a goal-packed 7-1 win over Coventry United on the final day of the season.
The hosts caught Coventry cold with two goals in three minutes, Kathryn Hill and Molly Sharpe both scoring before Destiney Toussaint reduced the deficit in the eighth minute.
Beth Hepple added a third and fourth, her first goals since December, with Bridget Galloway also netting. Ali Johnson came off the bench to make it six, with fellow sub Abby Holmes making it seven late on.
Durham started quickly with Sarah Wilson’s header smacking the far post from a corner just 38 seconds in. From a similar position, two minutes later, Hill would punish United for failing to heed that warning when she got there first to touch home at the far post.
That lead was doubled in the sixth minute when Sharpe turned in Lily Crosthwaite’s fizzing low cross from the right.
A shell-shocked Coventry recovered somewhat with a goal two minutes later, Toussaint cutting in from the right and shooting from an improbable angle.
But the home side would restore their two-goal lead when Hepple was set free on the half-hour mark before sending a rising effort over the keeper and into the roof of the net. She then doubled her tally with a drive into the top corner on the stroke of half time.
A thoroughly entertaining game continued on the goal trail, with Galloway adding her name to the list of scorers with a delightful finish on the hour before substitute Johnson tapped in, after Coventry failed to clear a ball into the box.
Holmes slotted through the keeper’s legs with six minutes to go as Durham finished the campaign in style.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Beth Hepple notched an impressive brace before half-time, and it was arguably her second goal that was the pick of the two.
The mazy midfielder cut in onto her left foot before unleashing an unstoppable strike that fizzed past Sue Wood to make it 4-1.
WHAT THEY SAID
Durham goalscorer Kathryn Hill said: “We started the game with intent and Sarah Wilson has hit the post and then we’ve got a corner quickly. That set the tone for the game.
“We wanted to go out and enjoy ourselves and put on a show for all of the fans that have tuned in throughout the season on the live feed and it was good to see us get some goals and play some good football.
“Wils [Sarah Wilson] is taking credit for my goal because she said we should switch runs so I took the run she did and scored, so I should thank the captain for that one.
“We see each other in training every night and we know what we’re capable of. I think, sometimes, we put too much pressure on ourselves and don’t go out and enjoy it as much. Today, you could see we were relaxed and enjoying ourselves. We let it happen and it was good.
“The main aim was promotion, we won’t shy away from that but if you reflect now the season has finished, it has also been a good season; we have moved forward as a club.
“We have finished higher than we did last year so we are making improvements. It is just getting those final bits and pieces so we can push for that first place next season.”
Coventry United manager Jay Bradford said:“I thought we looked tired. Durham came off the back of the Charlton game; they were going to be riled and ready to go and that is exactly what they were. We just let the game get away from us.
“We let our emotions dictate the way we played today. I’ve got a player that is retiring so that was a big thing in there. We’ve got a few players who won’t be here next year and all in all that has played its part. We just weren’t at the races; it is a disappointing result to end the season on.
“We brought it back to 2-1 and we got our foothold back in the game and we were competitive and doing everything we needed to do. Then, within what felt like five or six minutes, it was 4-1 and you’re going ‘this game is gone’.
“But at half-time, we adjusted a few things, had some good conversations but unfortunately didn’t quite execute those things in the second half. Do we want to come here and concede this amount of goals? No. But in the grand scheme of our season, we’re safe; we did what we had to do when we had to do it.
“I’m never going to stand here and be happy about a 7-1 defeat and my players are never going to be happy with that and we’re not going to accept those as our basic standards. But it is the last day and there’s other things going on, with the emotions of retirement and those players who have been here a long time.
“Unfortunately, their journey has come to an end and I think we played like that. They haven’t gone out in the manner they would want to. It is disappointing but we’re safe. We just need to write today off and look forward to next season.”
Durham (4-3-3): Megan Borthwick, Ellie Christon, Kathryn Hill, Sarah Wilson, Lauren Briggs, Sarah Robson, Beth Hepple, Mollie Lambert, Lily Crosthwaite, Bridget Galloway, Molly Sharpe
Substitutes: Ali Johnson for Sharpe 57’, Danielle Brown for Crosthwaite 57’, Dee Bradley for Robson 67’, for Becky Salicki for Hill 67’, Abby Holmes for Briggs 67’, Rachel Lee for Hepple 80’
Substitutes not used: Brooke Mackain, Hannah Greenwood, Grace Ayre
Goals: Hill 3’, Sharpe 6’, Hepple 30’, 45’, Galloway 60’, Johnson 72’, Holmes 84’
Booking: Galloway 64’
Coventry United (4-5-1): Sue Wood, Hayley Crackle, Nikki Miles, Becky Anderson, Anna Wilcox, Destiney Toussaint, Katy Morris, Alice Hassall, Helen Dermody, Beth Merrick, Georgia Stevens
Substitutes: Amy Wathan for Stevens 57’, Ashlee Brown for Anderson 57’, Amber Hughes for Dermody 70’, Phoebe Warner for Morris 85’, Jenna Roberts for Crackle 85’
Substitutes not used: Olivia Clark, Jenna Roberts, Alanah Mann
Goal: Toussaint 8’
Referee: Stacey Fullicks