Two changes were made from the weekend’s narrow defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion with Demi Lambourne once again coming into the cup side for Kirstie Levell and captain Sophie Barker returning from injury, in place of Georgia Brougham.
The left wing-back, who was playing against her former club, saw another effort saved by Megan Borthwick in one of the few clear-cut first half chances for either side.
The hosts did threaten, though, when Lily Crosthwaite’s cross caused confusion in the six-yard box, but Lambourne managed to get a hand to it before the danger was cleared.
Bridget Galloway then pounced on a defensive error and only had the ‘keeper to beat, but lobbed the ball over both Lambourne and the crossbar.
Back at the other end, it was Purfield who continued to provide an attacking threat from the left and after exchanging a one-two with Shannon O’Brien, blazed over the bar.
The turning point came just before the break when Molly Pike got clear of the Durham defence and was tripped by Abby Holmes as she raced towards goal. Holmes was shown a straight red card, leaving the home side with 10 players for the whole of the second half.
The resulting free-kick was curled over the bar by Purfield, but it took Leicester just six second half minutes to break the deadlock. Sophie Howard’s cross was expertly turned home at the far post by O’Brien, who netted her first of the season with a smart finish.
A decisive second came five minutes later. Pike poked home her maiden Foxes goal from close range, getting on the end of Jess Sigsworth’s dangerous ball into the box.
Durham had work to do and almost reduced the arrears when Mollie Lambert headed wide from Beth Hepple’s cross. It was City creating the majority of the opportunities, however, including Barker’s long-range strike that flew wide of the post and Abbie McManus’ header from Purfield’s corner, which was was cleared off the line.
Purfield’s cross was then headed wide by O’Brien and a nervy finish was soon on the cards after Durham had pulled one back with just over 10 minutes to play.
Crosthwaite broke free down the right and hammered an unstoppable effort into the far top corner, giving Lambourne no chance of keeping her clean sheet intact.
City’s best form of defence was attack in the closing stages, with Pike trying to curl one around Durham’s substitute ‘keeper Brooke Mackain but found her equal to the effort.
Substitute Paige Bailey-Gayle then could have made the game safe but Mackain got down to block her effort and another McManus header was hacked off the line, ahead of Pike volleying over the bar, though it mattered little to the end result.
Jess Sigsworth battles with Abby Holmes during the first half at Maiden Castle.
Abby Holmes’ red card at the end of the half opened up more space for Leicester, who had dominated the majority of the first period. It allowed Shannon O’Brien to set the Foxes on their way, shortly before Molly Pike’s goal, which ultimately proved to be the winner.
City were required to work hard for their victory in the final few minutes.
Both goalscorers played a big part in the triumph, with Molly Pike linking up well with Sam Tierney in the middle of midfield and Shannon O’Brien, operating from a wide left position, a menace for the Durham defence throughout. She got her reward with a maiden goal of the campaign six minutes after the interval.
Where does it leave us?
Molly Pike managed to turn the ball home to double Leicester's advantage.
Leicester sit third in Continental Tyres League Cup Group B with three points from two fixtures, two points behind Manchester United in second place, with Durham bottom of the group on one point.
Jemma Purfield provided an extra attacking threat from the left throughout the encounter.
City are straight back in Barclays FA Women’s Super League action on Sunday, when they welcome Everton to Pirelli Stadium in Burton (2pm kick-off).
Their next Continental Tyres League Cup fixture sees the Foxes travel to Leigh Sports Village to face Manchester United on Sunday 5 December (12pm kick-off).
City: Lambourne; Tierney, McManus, Plumptre (Brougham 63’), Howard, Purfield, Pike, Barker (C), Purfield; O’Brien, Sigsworth (Flint 63’), De Graaf (Bailey-Gayle 60’).
Sub not used: Harris.
Goals: O’Brien 51’, Pike 56’.
All times GMT.
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