Pools Women’s Team slipped to a narrow defeat at Durham Cestria on Sunday despite a performance full of character and determination.
Having been thrashed 7-2 by the league leaders earlier in the season, Pools knew they would have their work cut out to get a result against the promotion favourites at The Racecourse in Durham.
However, a tweak in shape devised to provide Craig Devon’s outfit with a more solid defensive base helped give them a foothold in what was a very competitive and even first half.
After a run of three successive wins had pushed them up to second in the NERWFL Premier Division table, Pools played with a real self-belief and maturity that was perhaps missing when the sides last met.
On 35 minutes, Faye Garside was sent tumbling by a very late tackle which saw the award of a free-kick and provided in-form midfielder Jenni Duffy-Smith the chance to let fly with a shot which proved too hot to handle for the Durham keeper and it bounced in to the net to give Pools a 1-0 lead.
Shocked by the setback, Durham began to make changes from the bench but Pools held firm in the face of some stern pressure and protected their lead in to the half-time break.
On a heavy pitch and with a diminished bench, Pools knew that they were in for a physically-demanding second half but they came out and gave their lot as the game continued in a very competitive manner.
However, ten minutes after the restart the hosts found a way through the stubborn Pools rearguard when a long-range thunderbolt flew in to the net, leaving keeper Rebecca Smith with very little chance.
Pools initially recovered well from the setback but, on the hour mark and with legs starting to tire, Durham managed to get their noses in front for the first time when a well-placed shot found the far corner of the net.
It was then Durham’s turn to defend as Pools began to push forward, determined to find an equaliser and take some reward for their efforts.
Two strong appeals for handball inside the area were waved away by the referee, whilst top scorer Caitlin Bates came agonisingly close to levelling when she went through on goal only to be denied by a fine save from the keeper with the tip of her boot.
“I could not have been any prouder of every one of the girls,” insisted boss Devon afterwards.
“They gave absolutely everything they had on the pitch, running until their legs had no more despite the fact Durham were able to draft in players from their First Team.
“We showed that we can compete against a high-quality team and that has got to give us extra confidence and self-belief for the rest of the season.
"I have got to give a special mention to Rebecca Smith in goal for some really brave and smart decision-making, while Faye Garside was another standout performer on the day.”
Full Time: Durham Cestria 2 Pools 1
Pools: Smith, Bartlett, Garside, Stuart, Duffy-Smith, Hampson (Stabler), Robinson, Rotherham, Ingram (Carter), Bates, Pye.