Durham progress into national semi-finals
Durham U18s finally lived up to their early season potential as they smashed a talented Greater Manchester side 4-0 to march into the semi-final of the ESFA National Trophy.
Durham began the game in the same mood as they left off against Northumberland driving forward and pressing play but Manchester looked menacing on the counter attack. The Manchester forwards Carlos Mendez and Madison Davies were quick and mobile with the ball at their feet and they continued to pose a threat in the early exchanges. With a contrasting approach to their play, Durham were composed and confident at this stage and settling into a good rhythm of getting the ball down and producing some nice passages of combination play. Once more, Durham were in debt to goalkeeper Kieron Stoker who produced a point blank save after Lewis Williams had dribbled his way into the penalty area and opened up a good scoring opportunity for himself. However, the bigger goal threat was at the other end of the pitch and Matthew Shorrocks in the Manchester goal was leading a charmed life. The energetic full back Fraser Colling should have put Durham ahead when played in by Jak Hanson and he will never have a better opportunity to score but somehow managed to lift his effort over the bar from six yards with Shorrocks stranded and the goal at his mercy. BUT, the opener was well worth waiting for. Andrei Ardelean combined with Hanson who hit an unstoppable shot high into the far corner of the net from an acute angle on 21 minutes. Durham increased in confidence and were in control as they pressed forward to increase their lead. Full backs Colling on the right and Callum Webster on the left got forward often and effectively and more chances came and went and as the teams turned round with Durham in a slender but well deserved one goal lead.
The pattern of Durham dominance continued in the second half and onlookers were astonished that Durham had not put this game out of sight but with only a one goal deficit Greater Manchester had hopes of getting back into the game. Their tactics of hitting Durham on the break always posed a threat. The midfield engine room of Dan Mitchell, Aaron Duell and Adam Little was strong and compact and kept their forward line moving with an endless supply of passes. Ardelean missed a great chance to make it 2-0 when unselfishly played in by Hanson and Jayven Redman tested Shorrocks on more than one occasion before he finally got his reward as he burst through the middle to score Durham’s second and bring some relief by providing the cushion of two goal lead. Durham were now cruising and Ardelean finished a great move combining with Dan Maddison and putting the game beyond the reach of Manchester. Billy Hall then made a powerful run into the Manchester penalty area and gave some reality to the scoreline by neatly tucking the ball into the bottom corner and beyond the reach of the despairing dive of Shurrocks. 4-0 was a final score which did not flatter Durham’s strong performance.
This was a real squad effort where all players played a huge part in taking Durham into a semi-final appearance and it was characterised by effort, team spirit, hard work, non stop movement and quality on and off the ball. The draw for the semi-final is on Monday 16 January and in this form Durham would welcome any opponent and look forward to the challenge.