Posted by: Richard Frost | 3 Apr 2020

Durham 2-3 York St John match report

Logo for Durham University's student newspaper PalatinateOriginal publication date: November 2003
Outlet: Palatinate

The Durham University Men’s 1sts football team came up slightly short at the Racecourse in a defeat that severely threatens their title ambitions for this season. In truth though, their counterparts at York St John University probably edged this closely fought contest in a defeat which leaves the hosts six points behind leaders Sheffield with just four games remaining.

Strangely for an away side, York dominated the early possession and created several good openings as Durham struggled to find their feet. Durham’s midfield often played too deep and so the team was forced to rely on long balls upfront to the pacy Neil Goodman and towering Andy Burns.

York’s one-touch passing often exposed the defence’s poor positioning and Durham should have been behind when a deflected shot and subsequent strike by forward Andy Sherlock rattled off the crossbar and upright. Rather than regrouping, this led to the first of several aggressive accusations of blame during the match, which can’t have helped Durham’s team spirit.

With York pressing, it was a slight surprise to see the impressive Burns nudge Durham ahead when his looping header found the far corner of York’s net after 30 minutes. At an immense 6’6, he was a clear head taller than any defender, and his height advantage helped him to become Durham’s outstanding performer – his flick-ons and sheer presence on the ball were a constant menace to the visitors.

The shock lead didn’t go unnoticed by York’s colourful substitutes who instantly screamed ‘they don’t deserve it!’, albeit with slightly more x-rated language. They almost had a bizarre goal to shout about soon after though as a weak kick by keeper Dave Irish flew directly onto bemused York striker Sherlock’s head, although the goalie then recovered well to save. York did ultimately draw level, however, and in one of the last touches of the first half, as Sherlock this time converted his header to record a deserved equaliser.

Durham responded to the challenge as captain Andy Murdoch put Durham ahead again from a free-kick straight after the restart. His whipped cross eluded everyone and left York’s goalkeeper to choose between the ball and the onrushing strikers. In the end he panicked, stood stationary and watched the ball fly in.

Shortly afterwards, Burns should really have given Durham some breathing space when presented with the ball after a shocking York clearance. As his tame shot struck the goalkeeper, the tide seemed to be turning in favour of Durham’s hard-working team. Then disaster struck.

First off, a York free-kick caused panic in the box leaving defender Nick Shepherd to head home unchallenged. Unforgivably, the game’s decisive goal came straight from the following kick-off as York’s Sherlock stole the ball and ran from the halfway line to slot home with Durham’s sloppy defence outnumbered. As captain Murdoch later admitted, ‘it was those two defensive mistakes which cost us’.

Perhaps mindful of those clangers, Durham seemed reluctant to commit numbers upfront as the second half progressed, and York looked the more likely scorers, with the excellent Sherlock unlucky not to complete his hat-trick.

Clearly, Durham need to develop a more attack-minded midfield when they fall behind in future, whilst those costly defensive lapses must be minimised. If they don’t improve, the signs for the top-of-the-table showdown with Sheffield in January look ominous.


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