There was plenty of action in the last league weekend of the year as Durham bested Manchester United, Aston Villa hammered Sheffield United, the Bees came from behind against Leicester, Spurs claimed derby honours over Palace and Charlton notched a win against Lewes.
Having been the thorn in United’s side this year, the Wildcats inflicted the first loss on Casey Stoney’s team with a composed performance in Durham. A goal up half-way through the first half when the visitors failed to deal with a Beth Hepple free kick, Mollie Green claiming the vital touch to take it away from her own ‘keeper. In an unfamiliar position, trailing towards half-time, the Red Devils restored parity when Ella Toone pounced on a defensive error to just before half time.
The second half saw Durham come out with a spring in their step, posing more questions of the United defence than they’d had asked up until that point. Pressing hard, the hosts retook the lead after Hepple calmly slotted the ball home from 12-yards after a handball at a corner. Throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their opposition, the visitors were caught out late in the day as Kathryn Hill carried the ball away at a free kick, the counter too swift for United to deal with as she switched the ball to Zoe Ness. Still with a fair amount to do, the Scottish international showed her composure to slot around the defence before sliding the ball into the net.
Firing in her ninth of the season Liz Ejupi gave the Addicks the lead five minutes before the break, volleying Lily Agg’s pint-point cross in at the near post. In fine attacking form this season, and breathing down the necks of the table toppers, Charlton found a second after the break through Agg who rocketed the ball against the underside of the bar and in from the top of the box. Too much for Lewes to handle, the visitors ran out worthy winners, the three points taking them level with United (who have a game in hand).
Suffering through their worst run of the season with just one win from their last four, Spurs came out firing against Palace. On the hunt for the opener from the get-go, the hosts found themselves frustrated by some last-ditch defending to keep them out, the linesman’s flag enough to deny Riana Dean early on. Against one of the league’s worst defences, the pressure finally told just before the half hour when Dean was played through, the young attacker taking a touch before slipping the ball around Shanell Salgado. The Palace stopper kept on her toes throughout the rest of the match, alert to keep the hosts out.
Starting to make a habit of coming from behind, the Bees leapfrogged an inconsistent Leicester side with an improved second half. A goal down just before the half hour when Melissa Johnson curled the ball home from the left side of the box following a swift attack from the Foxes.
The hosts restored parity early in the second half when Emma Beckett blasted the ball over the box and under the bar from 30-yards before Katie Wilkinson made it two when she slammed the ball high into the net after nippy footwork from Connie Foreman. The win enough to take the Bees fifth, leading the chasing pack that sits a good distance behind the top four.
In fine form, Villa climbed to eighth after their third win of the season; a thorough dismantling of Sheffield United. On the board five minutes before the break when Jodie Hutton fired the ball over Alex Brooks before Sophie Haywood slipped the ball inside of Brooks’ near post two minutes later. Cutting the deficit in half early in the second half, the Blades pulled a goal back through Sophie Jones after she sent Sian Rogers the wrong way from the spot.
However, the comeback was short-lived as Hutton reopened the two-goal gap, poking Brooks’ parry over the line before completing her hat tick ten minutes later, again first to the loose ball to lash it home. The match rounded off by second half substitute, Tanisha Smith eight minutes from time as she claimed her first senior goal with a neat looped header.