Pools Women’s Team were beaten by Durham Cestria in Sunday’s League Cup semi-final but not before they gave their unbeaten visitors a real scare at Dyke House.
Jonathan Gibbon-Hayes’ side produced one of their strongest performances of the season and were in front for a long period before the Premier Division champions hit back to book their place in the Final.
Pools began the last-four tie with the wind at their backs and they used it to their advantage by storming out of the traps and immediately attacking Cestria’s defence.
Jenni Duffy-Smith saw a free-kick held by the keeper, Sarah Rowbotham drove an effort just over after a dangerous long throw and Jade Pye rifled too high following great work from Justine Robinson as Pools bossed the opening fifteen minutes.
Caitlin Bates did well in midfield to send Pye away down the right flank and her teasing cross found Robinson at the far post but she just couldn’t apply the right connection on the stretch and the ball dropped wide.
Pools keeper Rebecca Smith had to make a tidy save at the other end as Durham finally looked to be finding their feet in the game and stringing together some passes.
However, on 20 minutes Pools opened the scoring when Robinson played Bates through on goal and she got there just ahead of the advancing keeper before slotting the ball home from a tight angle to make it 1-0 and cue wild celebrations.
The goal seemed to anger Durham who had a good spell of pressure after that, striking one shot just wide of the post and forcing Smith in to another smart save down to her right.
It was then the turn of the visitors’ keeper to pull off some heroics when she superbly tipped over a precise prodded effort from Pye which was destined for the top corner.
Aimee Stabler was then well-positioned to clear the ball off the line as Durham threatened from a corner and that was enough to see Pools in to half-time with their one goal lead.
With the wind now in their faces, the second half was always going to be a big challenge for Pools and the equaliser arrived 11 minutes after the restart when Durham beat the offside trap and slotted a clinical finish beyond Smith.
After that it became a very even but still competitive affair as both sides battled the conditions to create half chances - though it looked as if extra time might be required to separate them.
However, on 75 minutes a cross was flung in to the Pools box from the left and it got caught in the wind and sailed right across goal before bouncing off the post and in to net to hand Durham a 2-1 lead in fortunate circumstances.
Pools didn’t let their heads drop and continued to fight until the end and almost snatched a dramatic injury-time equaliser when Duffy-Smith’s long-range curler was brilliantly tipped round the post by the keeper.
“I’m disappointed because I thought we were the better team for the majority of the game,” admitted Gibbon-Hayes afterwards.
“We didn’t take our chances during the first half which came back to haunt us really because we conceded two sloppy goals in the second half.
“The girls stuck at it though against a massive team like Durham – they gave us everything, the intensity they played with was different class.
“They want to play at a higher level and they’ve shown today that they can compete so I am devastated for them that they didn’t get the result.”
Full Time: Pools 1 Durham Cestria 2
Pools: Smith, Bartlett, Duffy-Smith, Stuart, Stabler, Rowbotham, Ingram, Portas (Hammond-Garrington 72), Robinson, Bates, Pye.
Subs not used: Campbell, Rackstraw, Lambert.
Photos: Lisa Stabler