On a day when Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces were on display at Dartford, both the Millwall Lionesses and Durham put on a goal fest which saw our visitors run out convincing winners against the home side.
The game was barely ninety seconds old when Durham scored the first goal of the game. A free-kick on the left-hand side was awarded to the Wildcats and Beth Hepple stepped up and unleashed a high and curling effort that flew past Chloe Sansom in the Millwall goal.
Feeling confident and troubling Millwall down the left flank, a second goal came shortly after when a low cross from the left-hand side found Nicki Gears alone in the Lionesses penalty area and with an open goal to aim for. Connecting well, the Durham number nine placed it into the back of the net and the away side were 2-0 up in the opening five minutes.
The Lionesses responded in superb fashion. Evie Clarke powered through to the Wildcats’ penalty area and finished with a great goal to bring the Lionesses back into the game in the fifth minute of the game. This was an action-packed opening period in this league clash and although the local schools and communities in attendance could’ve been feeling cold in the chilly November breeze, the excitement that was building on the pitch was being radiated out to all those in the stands in Princes Park.
Durham would’ve had their third of the game in only the seventh minute if it hadn’t been for an outstanding block by Millwall ‘keeper, Chloe Samson. Samson shut down the space superbly and deflected a certain goal wide of the post for a Durham corner.
The Wildcats continued to put the pressure on Chris Phillips’ side and were rewarded in the tenth minute with their third of the game. Another ball was squared across the Millwall penalty area and Beth Hepple again coolly placed the ball into the Lionesses’ goal. The visitors had restored their two-goal advantage and were showing their signs of dominance against a spirited Millwall side.
Although our girls were under pressure and many other sides would have been deflated after conceding so early, the likes of Leanne Cowan, Georgie Giddings and Ylenia Priest continued to put their bodies on the line and defended resolutely for their side. Beth Powell also produced an outstanding last-ditch tackle deep in the Millwall penalty area to deny Durham their fourth in the twenty-second minute. The tackle was brave and if not timed to absolute perfection would’ve resulted in a Wildcats’ penalty, but the young central defender excellently made contact with the ball first.
The Lionesses were starting to get into a rhythm and in the twenty-fifth minute Lucy Fitzgerald brilliantly won the ball in the midfield and found Gabby Ravenscroft on the edge of the Durham penalty area. The young striker unleashed a low effort towards goal, but Hannah Reid in the away goal pushed Ravenscroft’s effort around the post for a corner.
On the half hour mark the Lionesses thought they had a second goal which would’ve brought them back into the game. Beating the offside trap, Ravenscroft again broke free and seeing Hannah Reid off of her goal line attempted a chip from outside the penalty area. The effort had the ‘keeper beat, but the ball just went wide of the near post and out for a goal kick.
Durham were 4-1 up in the thirty-seventh minute after a penalty box scramble saw the ball land at the feet of Durham captain Sarah Wilson. Striking the ball through a number of bodies, the ball darted past Sansom and the Wildcats had their fourth goal of the game and if it wasn’t for an offside flag in the forty-second minute, the away side would have been 5-1 up at the break.
The start of the second half lacked the pace of the first and it was in the fifty-second minute when Durham were awarded a penalty. Beth Hepple stepped up to claim her hat-trick and although she sent Chloe Sansom the wrong way, the ball cannoned off the foot of the post and bounced away. The ball may've stayed out, but it wasn't long until Durham got their fifth of the match.
In the fifty-fifth minute, the Wildcats broken down the right and hit a low cross to Zoe Ness at the near post. Unleashing a first time strike, Ness' effort flew into the top corner and was the prize for the pressure that Durham had put the Lionesses under in the second half.
The returning Fran Ali entered the field at half-time and if it wasn't for a clearance off of the goal line in the seventy-eighth minute, then Durham would've had their sixth of the game.
A superb save over the cross bar in the eighty-fourth minute from Chloe Sansom was followed by a last ditch clearance in the ninetieth minute after a defensive mix-up from Millwall, but as the final whistle sounded the home fans knew that the Wildcats were the more dominant side.
Although the score-line was a heavy defeat and Durham were more clinical with their finishing, there were positives to take from the game and moments that the Lionesses can build on in future fixtures.
Millwall Lionesses Starting XI:
Sansom, Cowan, Powell, Priest, Charles (Rossiter), Young (Ali), Giddings, Fitzgerald (Harford), Cataldo, Clarke, Ravenscroft
Subs not used: Hartshorne, Bailes, Auguste
Durham Starting XI:
Reid, Wilson, Robson (Dixon), Hepple, Ness, Gears, Salicki, Christon (Hill), Roberts, Holmes, Lee (Robertson)
Sub not used: Borthwick