By Kieran Moriarty
In what could be described as a local derby for the Palatinates, Durham 2nd XI proved themselves to be the pride of the North East, cruising to a routine 2-0 win against Sunderland. The scoreline never looked in doubt and would have been greater had Durham been more clinical in the final third.
The opening 10 minutes were scrappy with both teams struggling to gain a foothold in the game. Durham shaded the early possession but both teams were guilty of misplaced passes and poor decision making in the final third. As the game progressed, Durham began to exploit Sunderland’s left flank and had several half chances to show for their endeavours. A few minutes later, Durham were rewarded for their efforts as they took the lead. Ricky Goulding’s incisive through ball found Ben Hammond on the right wing. Hammond whipped the ball into the area and the Sunderland defence failed to deal with the low cross. The ball was pounced upon by the alert Will Hargreaves. His first shot was initially blocked but his second attempt was stabbed home from close range, putting Durham into a deserved lead.
Now in the ascendancy, Durham began to look ominous on the attack and a second goal seemed inevitable. The best of these chances fell to Ferdy Campbell, who rattled the crossbar with a looping header after a clever interchange of passing from the Palatinates. Sunderland offered very little threat to Durham’s defence. The goalkeeper Will Legg was only required to intervene on one occasion, producing a routine save from a tame Sunderland effort, in their only meaningful attack on the Durham goal in the first half.
Immediately at the start of the second half, it was clear that Durham wanted to settle this game as quickly as possible. A surging run by Alex Goldstone nearly led to a second goal, as his cross took a wicked deflection of a Sunderland defender, forcing the keeper to react well at his near post. A few minutes later, Will Hargreaves latched onto a defence splitting through ball. His touch was good but he opted to pass when shooting seemed the better option, allowing Sunderland to clear their lines. However, the Palatinates pressure soon paid off as they made it 2-0 minutes later. An in-swinging corner from Goldstone found the unmarked Chris Drakeford-Lewis, who nodded the ball past the keeper to establish a two-goal cushion.
Durham continued to attack and had some good chances to gain an unassailable lead. Ferdy Campbell had a free kick which narrowly flew over the bar. Alex Goldstone, who had put in a sterling shift all game went closest, with a rasping effort that seemed destined for the top corner, only to be denied by a fantastic fingertip save from the Sunderland keeper.
The Sunderland defence was now beginning to look stretched and Durham began to turn the screws. A low cross fired into the area by Tristan Michel agonisingly eluded the outstretched leg of Will Hargreaves. A few minutes later, Ferdy Campbell found himself one on one with the keeper but could only drive his effort straight at him. There was no response from Sunderland, they just seemed content to keep the score respectable. In the final few minutes, the Sunderland keeper was called upon again to make a comfortable save low to his right from a Goldstone free kick.
The final whistle sounded, signalling the end of a very composed performance from Durham. They did not get their third goal but they had picked up another 3 points, which now leaves them 2nd in the league table.