By Ollie Godden
On Wednesday 26th October, Maiden Castle saw one of the biggest games of the season for Durham University Men’s Football Club. A clash between Durham, last season’s BUCS Premier North Champions, and runners up Stirling University also coincided with the club’s inaugural charity match for ‘Sport in Action Zambia.’ In a hard fought contest, Billy Hodgkinson’s injury time winner secured the points for the home side, to raptures from the record attendance.
The game started slowly, with neither side able to find any penetrating passes to break two well organised defensive units. Mike King’s well saved 20-yard free kick after 10 minutes one of very few opportunities for either side; a clear indication that the full 90 minutes would be a tight affair.
With the first half progressing, Durham began to dominate the midfield with a composed display from central midfielder Tom Isola. The Palatinates were also finding considerable success down the wings. Tom Gilbey ventured down the left hand flank from left back and found space on a number of occasions, while James Philpott’s height and strength caused Sterling’s centre backs problems in the box.
With 25 minutes gone, Gilbey and Philpott combined again, with the left-back sending in an out-swinging cross with his left boot. Philpott got up well and headed down towards goal, only to see the effort brilliantly denied by Stirling’s goalkeeper.
With the rest of the first half mostly attritional, it was the visiting ‘keeper who was kept the busier of the two, making a particularly impressive double save with 40 minutes gone, stopping a Dom Sarle tap in and a driven shot from Philpott.
On the 45-minute mark Durham came the closest yet, with a deep free kick played in by captain King, Philpott got hold a half volley and struck the crossbar. A frustrating end to a half that could have seen Durham out of sight.
Stirling started the second half the better of the two sides, however, with the pace at the top a constant threat. The visiting side had realised there was little chance of beating Ollie Beauchamp and Jack Dancey in an aerial battle, so instead opted for a more direct floor game, finding some success. With 75 minutes gone, the Scottish side had their best opportunity when their striker broke clear but slotted the ball just past the far hand post: a let off for Durham.
Durham came back strongly in the latter stages, however. King’s driven shot from the edge of the box after a clever turn clattered against the post. If the Durham players were beginning to think today was not their day, they could have been forgiven.
Until the 91st minute when fan favourite and substitute Billy Hodgkinson got himself on the end of a long ball. On the left hand side of the box, a voluptuous chip saw the keeper beaten, and the ball bounce before nestling in an empty night.
A clearly delighted Hodgkinson told Palatinate after the game, “I thought the team played quite well and nullified any Stirling threat In a game of few chances I managed to snatch a late winner and it will go down as one of my favourite ever memories in football”.
Most importantly, a high turnout led to £350 being raised for Sport in Action Zambia.
Photograph: Dai-Khue Le-Duong