BY ROY KELLY
Crystal Palace were beaten 2-0 by a Beth Hepple-inspired Durham in the FA Women’s Championship.
The in-form midfielder fired in a pair of free-kicks to take her tally for the campaign to 10 and see off a spirited Palace at Maiden Castle.
Palace failed to back up wins over London Bees in the league and Lewes in the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup, while Durham boast three wins from their first five games, while
it would prove a highly entertaining match in which both keepers played starring roles.
Palace stopper Chloe Morgan was the first called into action, going down sharply to deny Mollie Sharpe at the near post in the 15th minute.
Durham, oozing confidence from an unbeaten start to the season, came close again through Sharpe whose 12-yard shot was blocked by Leeta Rutherford.
But the dangerous visitors and their prolific frontline came into the contest and Bianca Baptiste forced a fine low save to her left from Megan Borthwick.
Borthwick went onto make equally excellent stops to her right to thwart Coral Haines and Cherelle Khassal.
When the opening goal came, there was no shock it came from the boot of Hepple who place a 20-yard free-kick over the wall and just under the bar.
After the break, the bar denied Hepple’s a second as she headed Sharpe’s cross onto the bar on 55 minutes.
But nothing could prevent Hepple doubling the lead in the 65th-minute when her second sublime dead-ball strike from 30 yards gave Morgan no chance.
Palace came close to a response soon after only for Borthwick to dive full length to her right.
Lively Durham had plenty of further pressure and chances but could not add to their lead.
Palace boss Dean Davenport said: “It was a good game to watch and a very competitive game, both sides battled really well.
“We matched them in the first half and were disappointed to concede to a free-kick which I didn’t think was a foul, but I’m not reffing the game.
“To go in at half-time one down after 45 minutes of hard work is really difficult to take because the players mindsets have changed thinking they are going in goalless.
“There are positives to take, Durham haven’t scored in open play, it’s been two free-kicks. I’m not sure 2-0 was a fair reflection.
“In the next two or three weeks, you’ll see the true Palace. We’re starting to find our feet now. Once we get our momentum going, people will see us in a different light.”
To follow the action and sign up for The FA Player’s live Barclays FA Women’s Super League coverage visit womenscompetitions.thefa.com
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.