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Carla Ward delighted with Durham win ahead of Sunday's rematch

22 November 2019

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Sheffield United Women manager Carla Ward was delighted with her side's performance as they cruised to a 4-0 win at Durham in a crucial Continental Cup tie.

The Blades went into the penultimate game of Group A third in the group behind leaders Durham and Aston Villa, with only the top two progressing to the quarter-finals.

With a goal difference some way off their opponents heading into the game, a stunning 4-0 win not only propelled the Blades into the top two but overturned Durham's margin and leaves Ward's side top of the group with a home game against Coventry United remaining.

Keri Matthews' first goal for the club and a perfect free-kick from Aimee Palmer gave United a 2-0 lead at the break before Jade Pennock continued her fine form with a third just after the hour mark.

Maddy Cusack's stunning volley minutes from the end capped a performance which did justice to the score line and Ward was thrilled with her side's performance against a tough team.

"It was an enjoyable night," said the boss. "When you make that many changes you wonder how it might go but that performance is a credit to the whole squad."

Ward left key players such as Cusack, Katie Wilkinson and Olivia Fergusson on the bench while Emily Batty continued to keep goal as she has in the last two cup games.

It meant chances for Chloe Dixon, 16-year-old Matthews and Alethea Paul who got her first 90 minutes of the season and put in a superb through ball to set the first goal of the night up for Matthews.

"Players have stepped in and been superb. The players coming on have done brilliantly and we've all gone home happy, but we've got to replicate it on Sunday."

United now face the same opponents again on Sunday afternoon in the FA Women's Championship in the team's first game at the Proact Stadium.

Durham currently sit fourth in the league just a place behind the Blades and a win would continue to enhance United's push for promotion with second place London City Lionesses to come next weekend.

Despite a 4-0 victory, Ward isn't expecting a similar luxury come kick-off on Sunday.

"It will be a completely different test. The league is completely different and we know they'll come out fighting. Durham are not a team to roll over, I've admired the way they play for many years. They're whole-hearted, they run through brick walls for each other and that will hurt them, they'll want to put it right on Sunday and we've got to be ready for it."

Ward was also delighted for two of her younger players after Matthews scored her first goal for the club and Batty kept her first clean sheet and indeed the team's first of the season in any competition.

Matthews arrived in the summer from York City's Regional Talent Centre and has instantly been part of the first team squad while Batty also arrived pre-season after a year playing regularly with Doncaster Rovers Belles.

"They've both been brilliant," said Ward. "With Keri it's about nurturing her and looking after her and I think we've done that. She's played an hour and you can see how much that goal meant to her.

"Emily has bided her time. She's played a couple of cup games, really stepped up and on the night I thought she was superb."

The Blades face three big league games before worrying about the Continental Cup again, but any sort of result against Coventry United at home would see Ward's side qualify for the quarter-finals.

Should they better Durham's result away at Liverpool, top spot would be guaranteed, ensuring a home draw and likely avoiding the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in the quarter-finals.

"It's in our hands and that's a nice thing. We said we wanted to get out of the group and we're now a point away from making that happen. We just have to make sure we do the job and get that at home to Coventry United."

You can purchase tickets to Sunday's rematch at the Proact Stadium. Tickets are £1 and Sheffield United season ticket holders go free.

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