Carla Ward was full of praise for her “excellent” Sheffield United Women side as they maintained their recent run of good FA Women’s Championship form by beating Durham on Sunday.
Goals from Dan Cox and Jade Pennock sealed a fourth straight win for the Blades and ended the hosts’ slim hopes of winning the title, although Beth Hepple’s strike did give Durham a sniff of a comeback inside the last 15 minutes.
Ward's side took the lead on 16 minutes when a long free-kick from Bex Rayner saw full-back Cox slot home from close range, before Durham’s Nicki Gears and Becky Salicki should have done better with efforts which United ‘keeper Fran Bentley repelled.
Durham’s task was made more difficult in the second half when Salicki was shown a straight red for hauling back Ebony Salmon, and Pennock compounded their misery by slotting home to double United's lead after 69 minutes.
Durham were given a lifeline with 15 minutes left when Hepple smashed a free-kick into the far corner but despite a couple of late scares, the visitors held on for an impressive victory.
“I thought we were excellent from start to finish. We were superb,” said Ward.
“We went in at half-time a little disappointed to only be one goal up. It shows how far the girls have come though because Durham are a great side and one that we respect massively.
“They are the second best side in this league behind Manchester United in my opinion. It’s so pleasing to get the win – it was huge!
“That performance was a typical performance from the girls over the last four or five games. They’ve started to win ugly and are battling for each other.
“They are learning to fight for each other and doing everything that we ask of them. We’ve only been able to name 14 players because we’ve been ravaged by injuries.
“It’s been like that all season though. Hopefully, they all remain fit and we can go on a good run until the end of the season.”
Blades: Bentley; S Barker, Tierney, H Barker, Cox, Gilliatt, Pennock, Hartley, Cusack (Sarri, 89), Salmon, Rayner (Paul, 80). Not used: Marsden.