Categories: General Date: 20/03/18 Title: U18s: Durham 7 Cleveland 2
Durham finish top of East League
The Durham U18s moved to the top of the East League and clinched themselves a home tie in the semi-final of the Northern Counties Championship with a display of pace, power and precision and a well-deserved 7-2 victory. They had to call upon all players with 3 games in 9 days and without their England U18 internationals for part of the fixture backlog.
Durham started the game the way that they had finished v South Yorkshire with a high tempo and in total control of possession. They moved the ball around well, and swift and certain movement was matched by quality passing and an aggressive purpose in their play which led to numerous chances in the opening stages of the game and indicated what was to follow.
It seemed inevitable that Durham would take the lead and it would be their talisman striker Jamie O’Brien who would apply the killer touch after being played in by energetic midfielder Callum Foster on 15 minutes. Foster then turned from provider to scorer when he neatly finished a five man move as the overlapping Brad Moncur pulled the ball back from the touchline. Cleveland’s attacks were again nullified by a strong defensive performance by Jay Nicholson, Joe Blackbourne and Brad Moncur but they always looked dangerous from set pieces and Owen Brown in the Durham goal had to be strong when punching away or collecting some good deliveries from Cleveland’s numerous corners. Durham had secured themselves a semi-final place as half-time came with a 2-0 lead, but their sights were on finishing top of the league and they realised that this was now a strong possibility.
They started the second half in the same vein as the first and Harry Outterside exploited the space he created when he hit a deep cross from wide on the right for O’Brien to score a great striker’s goal by opening his body up and hitting a side foot volley past Cleveland’s keeper Josh Ridsdale to make the score 3-0 and move Durham to the top of the league. However, their lead was short lived, and Cleveland proved their worth from set pieces as centre back Jack Turner bundled a strong header past Brown at the far post to reduce the deficit and move Durham off the top of the table as the score stood. The combative Kyle Davidson limped out the game at this stage and Billy Hall switched to a deeper centre midfield role and Durham brought Fergus Hawes into the No. 10 role. Cleveland then hit the bar from another well delivered corner and the ball was scrambled to safety by defensive midfielders Luke Collins and Hall. Durham continued to control possession and found a second gear when O’Brien created a brilliant assist by chasing a lost ball down in the corner, drifting past his defender along the touchline and setting up for the overlapping Moncur to smash the ball past Ridsdale and bring Durham back to the top of the table.
O’Brien then turned a clever ball round the corner for James Thompson to run onto and clinically finish to extend their lead to a four goal cushion. However, Cleveland refused to bow down and a free kick from the touchline led to Aaron Johnson smashing the ball into the Durham net to reduce the lead again. Durham had to be wary of a Cleveland comeback and they finished the job in style. It was fitting that the mercurial O’Brien should get his hat-trick with a well-driven shot into the bottom corner of the net for Durham’s sixth and put the game and their table-topping finish beyond doubt. There was still time for Fraser Colling to turn from defender to goalscorer with a powerful right foot finish high into the Cleveland net and put Durham into seventh heaven.
This was a thorough and professional performance by a committed squad and was truly deserved on a night when all players applied themselves with a committed enthusiasm to their task in hand and their ability and experience brought the reward of a semi-final place against Merseyside – date and venue to be confirmed.
Substitutes used: Nik Krokhin (Durham Johnston School), James Thompson (Monkwearmouth Academy), Fergus Hawes (Durham Johnston School), Fraser Colling (Sunderland College), Jonny Langley (Durham Johnston School), Kieran Jackson (SAFC Foundation, Shildon
Scorers: Jamie O'Brien 3, Callum Foster, Brad Moncur, James Thompson, Fraser Colling