Durham FC 3-6 Darlington Town
A Tuesday night in Framwellgate Moor saw Durham FC host fellow Wearside League outfit Darlington Town in front of a healthy crowd of over 70. Sadly, during the course of the game, an FA announcement means this could be the last for a while, more of which later.
Scheduled for a 18:30 start, the clock ticked past half past with echoes of Scotland v Estonia as only Darlington Town lined up on the pitch. The ref suggested to the Durham FC sideline that they might want to get their players in situ.
The game started a little after half past and it was the home side who made the early running with the midfield pushing up and trying the thread through balls to the forwards. After ten minutes one such through ball saw one of the Durham forwards fire a low shot that the Darlington keeper turned away for a corner. It was from the resulting deep corner kick that Durham FC took the lead through with Alex Grocot slotting home a back post header past the keeper.
Straight from kick off Darlington seemed to find another gear and pushed forward, forcing a smart double save from the Durham keeper. This was a sign of things to come and Darlington poured forward with wave after wave of attacks. Just before the half hour mark the away side had a goal chalked off for offside after stroking the ball in to an empty net following a double ricochet.
Just after the half hour mark Darlington Town equalised through James Beauchamp another backpost header from another inswinging corner. Within five minutes it was 1-3 to Darlington Town, the second coming from a curling shot that was diverted in by the head of one Johnny Ward and the third a fine chip from distance, again from Ward. It was no less than the away side deserved, with their constant pressure from midfield causing Durham problems.
Town bagged a fourth in the 40th minute with Jacob Wood getting on the end of a long throw, possibly incorrectly awarded, and heading home from closer range. That is how things remained until half time, with Town 1-4 up and good value for their lead.
A quick half time turnaround saw a couple of changes in personnel but the pattern remained the same, with Town extending their lead in the 62nd minute with Beauchamp capitalising on a mix up in the Durham defence before dinking the ball over the keeper.
Durham began to get back in to the game after this and a spell of pressure was rewarded in the 71st minute when Ryan Jones seized on a slip from one of the Darlington defenders before lobbing the ball over the keeper from 20 yards. FC continued to press, finding space in front of the Darlington defence and getting further up the field than they had been able to manage. In the 85th minute they reduced the arrears further with Ross Howell tucking in a close range finish, making it 3-5. An unlikely comeback was thwarted in the 90th minute with Steve Johnson slotting away a soft penalty and making the score 3-6. Soon after the referee blew her whistle and brought an entertaining encounter to an end.
During the course of the game it was announced that the FA had updated their guidance to prohibit spectators from Step 7 friendlies, much to the annoyance of many present. The mishmash of rules mean you can sit in a pub with 100 people in an enclosed space yet this update means standing outside with 50 people watching football isn’t permitted. Whether village cricket falls under these new measures remains to be seen, or whether grass roots football is a lone victim of over zealous rulings.