Durham 1 Sheffield United Women 1: Blades pegged back after Courtney Sweetman-Kirk opener

Durham and Sheffield United shared the spoils as an entertaining FA Women’s Championship contest ended all square in the North East.

By Ross Lawson​
Sunday, 28th March 2021, 3:56 pm

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk broke the deadline at Maiden Castle, tapping in from close range just before the half-hour mark.

But that was instantly cancelled out by Ali Johnson’s debut goal for Durham before the break.

The Blades goalscorer admitted her disappointment despite picking up a point as missed opportunities in front of goal meant Neil Redferan’s side wouldn’t be heading back to South Yorkshire with all three.

Sheffield United player Courtney Sweetman-Kirk is lifted in the air by team mates after scoring the opeining goal during the FA Women's Championship match between Durham Women and Sheffield United at Maiden Castle . (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

"Durham is always a tough place to come but the way we performed in the first half, we had a lot of chances,” she said.

"Personally, I’m disappointed as they are the sorts of goals I like scoring.

"I’ve apologised to the gaffer and the girls. Sometimes you don’t take your chances and the second half becomes more scrappy and plays into Durham’s hands. It is a good point but we have all come away thinking it should be three to be honest.

"We’ll go back to the training ground and do a lot of shooting next week, or at least I will be.

"As much as the manager was disappointed, I think we will look back on it this week and be very excited and pleased with the first half, because that’s what we are about and that is how we want to play.

"That first half performance, except for the lack of clinical finishing, is what we want to be about and what we have been working towards for a long time.

"The next step is then finishing our chances to make sure we are three or four up at half-time because we quite easily could have been. We’ll take heart from the first half definitely."

The game started brightly enough, with the visitors enjoying more incisive periods of play. Even before her opener, Sweetman-Kirk could, and should, have registered earlier, with her close range shot looping over the top from six yards.

But she would find the back of the net later as Durham, failing to heed the warning, let Bex Rayner dance down the left side of the box before her cut-back was decisively slotted home by Sweetman-Kirk in the 29th minute.

Needing a response, the hosts struck back just three minutes later, Johnson, a new recruit during the week, marked her first start for Durham with a superb long-range effort that flew past Fran Kitching in the United goal.

As the game began to move through the gears, the visitors should have restored their advantage, but Sweetman-Kirk, seeing plenty of goal, could only bundle wide.

Durham, though, could well have felt aggrieved for not leading at the break after seeing Molly Sharpe’s shot on the turn, just before half-time, pushed clear by Kitching.

In a more subdued second half, chances wise, Katie Wilkinson forced a reaction stop from Megan Borthwick on 65 minutes, before spurning an effort with 10 minutes to go as the game, still frantic but lacking clear-cut chances, finished all-square.

Durham (4-3-3): Megan Borthwick; Abby Holmes, Kathryn Hill, Becky Salicki, Sarah Wilson; Lauren Briggs, Sarah Robson; Beth Hepple; Ali Johnson, Molly Sharpe, Danielle Brown. Substitutes: Ellie Christon for Salicki 57, Bridget Galloway for Sharpe 66, Lily Crosthwaite for Brown 87

Substitutes not used: Brooke Mackain, Mollie Lambert, Hannah Greenwood, Grace Ayre, Rachel Lee.

Goal: Johnson 32

Sheffield United (4-3-3): Fran Kitching; Nat Johnson, Leandra Little, Naomi Hartley, Ocean Rolandsen; Kasia Lipka, Maddy Cusack, Rhema Lord-Mears; Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, Katie Wilkinson, Bex Rayner. Substitutes: Jade Pennock for Sweetman-Kirk 57, Mel Johnson for Rayner 57, Lucy Watson for Lord-Mears 87

Substitutes not used: Emily Batty, Keri Matthews, Tamara Wilcock, Katie Anderson, Sophie Walton, Charley Docherty.

Goal: Sweetman-Kirk 29

Booking: Little 77

Referee: Amy Fearn

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