General view of Maiden Castle Durham Women v Lewes Women, Womens Championship football match, New Ferens Park, Durham, UK - 13 Sep 2020 Photo: Richard Lee for The FA

Honours even as Durham and Sheffield United battle to Maiden Castle draw

Durham’s hopes of promotion to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League took another blow as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Sheffield United at Maiden Castle this afternoon.

A competitive encounter saw both goals come in the first half with Courtney Sweetman-Kirk’s effort being cancelled out by Durham debutant Ali Johnson’s sweet strike.

Sheffield United could have been in-front inside the first minute in blustery conditions at Maiden Castle. A low cross from the right found Sweetman-Kirk who looked to have a tap-in but she scuffed her effort over the crossbar.

Neil Redfearn’s side were lively in their attacking play and Katie Wilkinson played Sweetman-Kirk in on goal midway through the half but she again couldn’t direct her effort on target.

The former Liverpool and Everton forward didn’t have to wait much longer for her goal with Sheffield United taking the lead a couple of minutes later. Some clever work down the left from Bex Rayner resulted in her playing the ball across goal to Sweetman-Kirk for a simple tap-in.

The Blades were good value for their lead but Durham responded when former Sheffield United full-back Johnson fired the ball across the box into the far corner of the net to level matters on her debut. It could have got even better for The Wildcats just before the break but Molly Sharpe’s stunning volley was tipped to safety by visiting keeper Fran Kitching as the two sides went into half-time level at 1-1.

Chances were at a premium in the second half with neither side giving much away. Leandra Little cleared a Lauren Briggs header to safety before Durham keeper Megan Borthwick made herself big at the other end as she blocked a Wilkinson flick.

The final quarter of the match saw plenty of whole-hearted challenges put in by both sides which arguably broke the flow of the game up further. Beth Hepple curled a free-kick straight at Kitching before Wilkinson looped an effort narrowly wide at the other end.

Durham substitute Lily Crosthwaite drilled an effort at Kitching in the final minutes before firing a dangerous cross across goal which came to nothing as they game ended in a 1-1 draw.

The result means that Leicester City could extend their advantage at the top of the FA Women’s Championship table should they defeat struggling Coventry United at Farley Way.

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