The home of Willington FC was the venue for today’s Northern League clash between Durham City and Hebburn Town. Before the game, six places separated the two sides in the league, with the visitors sitting in 5th and the hosts sitting in 11th. Durham went into this game full of confidence following a comprehensive 3-1 win over the league leaders, Northallerton, just a week previous. A crowd of 80 brave spectators turned out to watch today’s game with the cold weather uniting both sets of fans in the stands.
It was Hebburn who kicked off proceedings this afternoon, shooting downhill, and it was Hebburn who had the best opportunities in the opening exchanges. Just one minute in, and the visitor’s Craig Mally, after some decent work and a bit of luck, pulled the ball back for Peter Jones who shot just wide. And the visitors continued to pile on the pressure with Jonathen Wightman trying one from 20 yards, only to strike it directly towards Nathan Armin in the host’s net.
Hebburn Town weren’t allowing Durham any time to think at this point, closing them down at every possible chance. And it paid off in the sixth minute. Ross Toward made a run down the left hand side, playing a smart pass to Gary Shaw, who laid it back off to Toward. A little bit of hold up play lead the ball to be played back to Shaw on the edge of the area, who finished smartly, beating Nathan Armin. 0-1 to the visitors, and thoroughly deserved with the way they’d started.
And the pressure didn’t stop there. Durham not being given a chance to get going whatsoever, leading to sloppy passes, and consistent counter attacks from Hebburn. Clever play from Hebburn’s Wightman, in the 21st minute, lead to the ball falling to Paul Chow’s feet. The tall number 9 did extremely well to get the ball onto his left foot, and his side footed curling effort went just over the Durham goal. A let off for the hosts, who could well have been two down at this point.
Just two minutes later, Hebburn’s Anthony Myers played a smart rabona pass through to Wightman, who struck well, forcing Armin into an acrobatic save. Another let off for the hosts, and half time couldn’t come sooner.
The last chance of the first half fell to Hebburn, surprisingly, with Paul Chow turning both ways to set himself up, forcing another save from Armin after a well struck right footed shot – the rebound, following the save, was confidently over and out for a goal kick.
Durham City struggled to get going in the first 45 minutes. A few counter attack attempts were stopped by a well disciplined Hebburn defence. 0-1 at the break, and a big team talk needed if the hosts were to get back into the game.
And a big team talk was what they received. As Durham kicked off the second half, it was clear that they’d had a good talking to. Just two minutes after the game had kicked back off, some very pacey wing play lead to the ball falling to the host’s Nicky Allen, who struck the ball perfectly into the top of the net, leaving Hebburn’s Steven Hubery with absolutely no chance. 1-1, and it almost looked like the momentum had completely shifted compared to the team’s first half displays.
Hebburn, refusing to give in, did restart brightly following that early blow, and continued to take advantage of the obvious height difference between to the two sides. A fumbled Hebburn cross was nearly bundled over the line following a scramble, only for Josh Rodgers to clear the ball off the line and out for a corner. Whilst the game was pretty even at this point, it was hard to believe it would finish a draw.
Durham’s attacking force was full of pace and trickery, and it obvious just how confident they were on the ball. Durham’s Chris Pattinson did an exceptionally good job of forcing his marker, Craig Mally, into a tough position, forcing a foul just inside the penalty area. No one debated the penalty, but the away side looked deflated at the chance of throwing away their lead. Durham’s Craig Hennis stepped up to take the penalty, and smashed it home after 56 minutes. Just 11 minutes into the second half, and Hebburn’s 0-1 lead had completely evaporated.
In a completely opposite display to the first half, it was Durham who continued with the attacking play. A perfectly positioned freekick was put just over the bar by the scorer of Durham’s second, Craig Hennis, in the 66th minute. Just three minutes later, and Durham had another great chance to make it 3-1, this time with the ball falling to Daniel Knowd, who put the ball agonisingly wide. Much to the frustration of the home supporters around me who thought their side had scored.
But it was Durham who had the deciding say in the 72nd minute. Again, some great work on the left wing by Chris Pattinson, lead to the ball ending up at the feet of Sam Steele, who scored at the second time of asking. Jubilation followed on the pitch as Durham knew they’d all but secured the three points.
And that’s how it finished, after Durham started running down the clock with the ball in the corner, and forcing fouls from the frustrated visitors. A game of two completely different halves, but Durham did enough damage in the second half to secure all three points.