A bumpy pitch and an odd opening goal
The Bees looked brightest during the first half, although not as smooth with their passes as they have been – the pitch playing its own part in the match. Paula Howells and Sophie Fogarty were linking up well on the left, Ellie Christon battling hard to keep her marker at bay. Jo Wilson looked sharp through the centre but struggled to play off Sarah Wilson’s shoulder, flagged time and again for tight offsides, hardly miles off but just a little too eager.
Durham, for their part, looked like they were still stuck on the A1, struggling for possession and meaningful attacks, Jordan Atkinson a willing runner on the right but the team in blue just not switched on.
The opening goal came at the end of the first half, the Bees with a deserved lead through somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Jo Wilson was hounding the backline as Sarah Wilson headed back to her 'keeper under pressure. The ball sailed into the box, with Helen Alderson squinting at it as it flew over her arms before turning to watch it cross the line and rest against the back of the net.
One team switching on as the other turned back off
The Wildcats found their fighting spirit over the half-time interval (possibly spurred on by some stern words from manager Andy Thorpe, who knew his team weren’t at the races) and steamed out the blocks for the second-half. The Bees, however, were not switched on after the break, encouraging Durham to have some fun.
Atkinson was once again charging down the right, finding Nat Gutteridge in the box, but the experienced attacker was only able to fire wide. A corner came, with a shot straight at Sophie Harris, then another corner and a tangle in the box saw the ball bouncing around. Atkinson got her head to it first, finding the back of the net, but the assistant had his flag up.
Moments after Durham’s disallowed goal, the ref was then pointing to the spot, the assistant flagging for handball. There was some confusion from the two teams - was it a pen, was it outside the box? The referee stood firm though; penalty. Beth Hepple stepped up and sent the ball straight into the bottom corner, with Durham back on terms and rightly so.
The Bees were switching back on but still looked sluggish against a Durham side that had found their passing game and were going forward with intent at every opportunity. A half chance for the hosts came from Harris' long kick, with Jo Wilson chasing it down, sliding past both centre-backs, but Alderson getting down at full stretch to make the save.
The game was opening up and with it Hepple had a couple of chances. First, she fired a shot straight at Harris from 25-yards then, set up by Atkinson, she drove the ball towards goal, with Harris beaten but the shot cannoning off of the post and away.
A breathless two minutes followed, seeing Alderson down quickly to save Howells’ effort from a tight angle before she sent the ball off for a counter-attack. Durham kept the ball alive by the by-line as new signing Tyler Dodds sent the ball low across the box, with Mercy Darkoah the happy recipient as she swept the ball into the far corner. The Wildcats were ahead for the first time in the game and heading to the top of the table, provoking a euphoric ripple across those in blue, with everyone running down to the far goal to celebrate.
With little more than 10 minutes left the Bees changed up through the gears, looking more and more dangerous. The increased pressure paid off as an incisive move on the left saw Howells link with Nikki Watts, the latter firing the after-burners to run into the box with the ball on her toe, firing the ball towards the near post, where Jo Wilson was more than happy to turn it home to equalise.
With time ticking down and both sides hunting for a winner, both defences had to be firm as both sets of attackers were willing to pounce on any opening. The game though, finishing in frantic fashion, saw the points shared.
A point a piece and a performance to build on
Both sides will be happy to take something for the game, as they certainly both deserve something, but both will be a little frustrated that they couldn’t close out all three points.
There were issues for both; Durham not really in the match for most of the first half, the Bees not switched on for the start of the second. Both giving away silly fouls across the pitch but neither doing enough with their set-pieces. Durham certainly better at dead ball situations, the Bees consistently finding the first man at their corners. Both will have positives and negatives to take into the break.
The Wildcats sit in third in WSL 2 now, three points off of the top with a game in hand, while the Bees climb into sixth.