Everton's year ended in defeat as Durham battled to a 1-0 victory in the Continental League Cup on Saturday.
Though a win for either side would not be enough to see them through to January's knock-out stages, Everton boss Brian Sorensen said ahead of the game he was still expecting a fiercely-competitive contest with the Wildcats. With Walton Hall Park deemed unplayable due to a frozen pitch, the Blues instead took to the field at the Marine Travel Arena looking to end the year on a high after their emphatic Women's Super League win against Tottenham in midweek.
Sorensen made nine changes from the side that triumphed at Brisbane Road, with academy products Abby Clarke and Annie Wilding handed their first team debuts and midfielder Izzy Christiansen captaining the side on her return from injury. But it was Durham who had the better of the action in the opening exchanges and they were rewarded for their gutsy start when Lily Crosthwaite put the Championship outfit ahead after 14 minutes.
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The visitors nearly added to their tally when a captain Beth Hepple directed her poweful header goalwards on 26 minutes but a diving save from Courtney Brosnan in the Everton goal ensured the scoreline stayed at 1-0. The Blues almost restored parity minutes later as the ball pinballed around inside the Durham box before Wheeler drove a tame shot straight into the gloves of McAloon.
Everton's biggest chance of the half came right on the stroke of half time; Aggie Beever-Jones' curling effort from 20 yards careering off the outside of the post. The Blues were forced into a change at the break, winger Gio replaced by debutant Taylor Howarth with the Brazilian still feeling the effects of a heavy challenge right before the interval.
Durham started the second half brightly, with Maria Farruiga seeing her ambitious strike from distance tipped over by Brosnan. Christiansen came close to an equaliser for the hosts around the hour mark, the midfielder drilling her first-time effort just over the bar after a lovely lay-off from Holmgaard.
Brian Sorensen made two changes as Everton looked to get back into the game, with Jess Park and Aurora Galli introduced after 75 minutes.
Christiansen was twice denied by McAloon in stoppage time however Durham stood firm to hang on to the three points, with the Toffees now not slated to play until the WSL returns in mid-January.
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