Categories: General Date: 30/01/19 Title: U18s: Northumberland 2 Durham 1Durham beaten in ESFA quarter-finals
Durham crashed out of the ESFA U18 Inter-county Trophy in a game that is best described with that well-worn cliché a game of two halves.
A late pitch inspection at Ashington FC deemed the game playable although there were a few frosted areas of the ground that proved difficult for the players. The game got off to the most dramatic of starts with Durham scoring what must be the fastest goal in their long 110-year history within 20 seconds. Full back Liam Robson received the ball from the kick off and played a perfectly measured ball behind Northumberland’s England trialist, full back Ben Gaffney who could not control the ball on the tricky surface under pressure from James Thompson. Thompson then managed to catch goalkeeper Finn Hodgson off his line and the ball careered into the net to give Durham an early lead and put them on the front foot. Durham quickly settled into an early stride and the fast, incisive front-running of Sam Hodgson and Matthew Law caused the Northumberland rearguard a multitude of problems and they threatened to increase their lead on numerous occasions without getting the clear-cut opportunity. Steven Black provided a solid platform by winning loose balls with strong challenges and timely interceptions and moving the ball around effectively. At the other end, James Thorpe in the Durham goal was relatively untroubled but North showed their potential through left hand striker Robbie Christie and industrious midfielder Paul Van-Zandvliet. Durham suffered a cruel blow when Sam Hodgson had to leave the field with a twisted ankle. Durham had effectively coasted their way to half time albeit with the slender lead of that early goal and their back-four of Robson, Nik Krokhin, Ryan Colquhoun and Joe Lockey had effectively suppressed any threat from the North strike force.
The second half resumed in equally dramatic fashion with North capitalising on Durham’s hesitant start. Christie played an excellent ball across the face of the penalty area and Durham failed to clear on two successive occasions and when it was returned into the six-yard box it was sliced into the roof of the net via the foot of a Durham defender for an own goal to even the tie in the first minute. Durham responded well and immediately forced a couple of moves turning the North defence round and creating a couple of half-chances, but the goal had given North a fresh impetus and they forced a succession of corners which resulted in them striking a post and some desperate defending from the Durham lads making two quick goal-line clearances. Following a quick Durham attack, Colquhoun misjudged a headed back-pass isolating Thorpe and placing the ball at the feet of North striker Sam McClellan, who rounded Thorpe and played the ball neatly toward the exposed Durham goal. But Colquhoun then made a brilliant recovery to clear from the line with Thorpe stranded. This game was very much in the balance with North proving strong and dominant in the middle of the park but Durham’s Thompson, Law and Joe Sloan able to drive at the North defence with purpose and create opportunities. Jonny Langley worked a good opportunity for Mason Hurworth to drive with passion and power into the penalty area, but the ball bounced on the uneven surface as Hurworth drove a powerful strike over the bar. As the game passed the 80-minute mark and looked like it might head into extra time, Durham conceded a free kick 25 yards from their goal. The powerful strike took a wicked deflection over the wall and left Thorpe with no chance of saving to make it 2-1 to North. Durham had less than 10 minutes to salvage the tie and shifted their formation to try and get the goal back. Thompson made another fine run wrong-footing defenders and bursting forward to pull the ball back from the bye-line but neither Law, Sloan or Stevie Johnson could get a clear contact due to the intense pressure from the North defence and, from there, North effectively strangled the game to see it out to the final whistle. The game certainly lived up to the cliché of ‘a game of two halves’ with North winning the second period and their two goals edging a good cup-tie. They now go on to meet Lancashire in the semi-final, but these two evenly matched teams are destined to meet again this season in the Northern Counties Championship.