Brandon United 0-0 Whickham
For this correspondent, the successful #LetFansIn campaign was a second return to watching football, having been lucky enough to take in Durham United and Durham FC friendlies before the FA put a stop to things. With a multitude of options, a late decision was made to take in Brandon United against Whickham once the home side announced fans would be welcome back.
Due to the steps laid out in the Coronavirus guidelines, the changing rooms were out of bounds, sealed off with yellow and black tape giving off serious crime scene vibes. Whickham congregated around the away dugout whilst Brandon perched on the bank outside the changing rooms.
The players appeared to be in a hurry, lining up in kick off formation at 1:53pm, forcing the ref from out under the stand to get proceedings underway at 1:55pm, five minutes ahead of schedule.
Whickham started confidently, bringing the ball out of defence and looking to find their two wide players with raking passes where possible. Kieran Galbraith marshalled the away defence, looking comfortable on the ball on an excellent playing surface.
With Durham Cathedral providing a panoramic backdrop, the home side eased their way back in to the game, looking to capitalise on the high defensive line the visitors were playing with balls over the top. They came close to breaking the defensive line but the assistant referee’s flag thwarted a number of these attempts, much to the annoyance of the home dugout.
Jack Robson was a constant threat for Whickham with his dribbling and close control, but he was unable to fashion any clear chances for himself of his team mates as half time approached. Three minutes before half time Whickham had the best chance of the half as they got in behind the defence on the right hand side before flashing a cross low in front of the keeper. The ball fell to an attacker on the corner of the six yard box, but he flashed his shot over the bar, meaning the times went in (or stayed out) level at half time.
Both sides made changes at half-time and it was Brandon who started the better, flashing a shot just over from 20 yards on the bounce seconds after the restart. Whickham responded with chances of their own, firstly the left back drfiting in to space before pulling a low shot wide of the post, and then when Robson picked the ball up on the turn and drove at the United defence. Ignoring his team mates, he reached the edge of the box before curling a shot to the keeper’s left. It was a good height for the keeper and he turned the ball behind for a corner.
Brandon continued to press, shooting down the hill at the Welfare Ground, and were unlucky not to take the lead in the 68th minute when a free header was planted in front of the keeper when either side of him would have resulted in a goal. With fifteen minuted left, Brandon forced another save from the keeper, this time a low curling shot destined for the bottom corner being tipped around the post. From the resulting corner, another free header was offered up, but again they couldn’t get the ball on target.
With one minute left on the clock the away side had a chance to nick it as one of the substitutes latched on to a ricochet in the home defence and drove in to the box. Rather than taking an early shot, he tried to round the keeper who was equal to the effort and stabbed the ball away.
The referee blew for time, with a draw a fair result for both sides. Brandon more than matched their counterparts from a higher division and Whickham will be happy with a run out and some flashes of skill from their flair players.