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U18s: Durham 1 Lancashire 2

Durham fall to a late goal

Posted by: allan

Durham U18s narrowly lost a thrilling encounter in the ESFA Inter-County Trophy by the odd goal in three and can consider themselves desperately unlucky to do so. Before the game started Durham were dealt two cruel blows when they lost their co-captain, Luke Collins and England trialist Ceiran Jackson to illness but the depth of the squad was highlighted by such a strong team performance.

This was a tight, evenly contested game from start to finish with Lancashire having some good early possession and forcing Durham onto the back foot. The Durham defence of Jay Nicholson, Joe Blackbourne, Fraser Colling and Jonny Langley had to be strong and resolute as their team played their way into the game. And it was Durham who had the better of the early chances.

Billy Hall pressed the Lancs defence, stole the ball cleanly and opened up a valuable opportunity with some tricky footwork only to pull his shot wide of the far post. Tireless front-runner Jamie O’Brien unselfishly set up Callum Foster and Fergus Hawes for consecutive strikes at goal and Reece Blakey tested Henry Bunting-Jones in the Lancashire goal three times in quick succession. At the other end, Harry Renwick had to be alert and quickly off his line as Lancashire broke with pace and purpose and produced some good combination play down both flanks. He saved at point blank range at the near post and had to punch clear twice when under severe pressure from the Lancs attacking force. There was quality play on an individual and collective level but despite the urgency from both teams to play the ball forward to attack the score remained goalless at half-time.

Durham’s positive approach drew the first blood on the restart. Langley and Blakey linked up well with Foster who jinked his way into the Lancs penalty area and he cleverly dinked his shot over Bunting-Jones for an excellent finish into the far corner of the Lancs net. Despite Durham’s advantage the balance of play remained even as they tried to add to their slender lead for the next 25 minutes. On 72 minutes it was all square when Lancs quick wide-man Cian Menzies put in a dangerous cross which was eventually dispatched by Adam Bolton to even the scoring and tie the game up.

The quality of the contest continued on an even keel and, as it looked as though the game was going to extra time, Durham suffered a cruel blow when Adam Bolton pumped a spectacular lob in the air which proved profitable. Renwick raced from his goal line to clear and the loose ball fell kindly for Bolton who managed to drop the ball just under the bar behind Renwick as he desperately retreated to get a touch on the descending ball. This came in the 82nd minute and despite some heroic efforts going forward it proved too late in the game for Durham to get back into it and force extra-time.

It was a devastating end to their interest in the National Trophy as the U18s had hoped to go one step further than last year’s beaten finalists and feel they have a squad capable of success this season so all efforts will be focussed on the Northern Counties.

Durham’s next game will be on Wednesday 20 December against Northumberland for the Derek Watson Trophy.

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