By Abi Curran
Durham University Amateur Football Club’s back-to-back double header vs Loughborough was advertised as the biggest footballing event of the sporting calendar.
And it’s a good job the red weather warning wasn’t issued in advance of Wednesday 24th because the talent on show from both the men’s and women’s teams was enough to blow away spectators that packed the stand at Maiden Castle.
DUWAFC narrowly lost out to Loughborough who sit top of the Women’s Premier North Division – the final score was 2-1. In the game that followed between DUAFC and Loughborough’s men’s team, Durham held on for a 3-2 victory.
Students went through the Maiden Castle turnstiles to watch the charity match all in aid of Sport in Action. A total of £2402.03 was raised for the Zambian-based charity that works to improve the lives of people through sport.
With some stunning goals and aggressive attacking play, both Durham sides had plenty to shout about.
First up were DUAWFC who faced an in-form Loughborough side residing at the top of the Women’s Premier North League.
From the off, Durham knew they had their work cut out. Loughborough utilised their left-hand side with their number 11 making threatening runs down the wing.
Without the solid defence work from Freya Bailes, fresh from her England University call up, and Emma Wallis, who knows how many times Loughborough could have found a way through the back. Time and time again, the Loughborough attackers were bullied to the goal line, Bailes and Wallace not allowing any space for a cut inside.
The deadlock was broken on the 35th minute from a Loughborough set piece just past the halfway line on the left hand side. The ball was whipped in cleanly but found itself fumbling around in the box before a Loughborough toe connected and poked it through the gap among the bodies, converting it past Brooke Mackain.
It wasn’t all defensive for Durham though. Pressure mounted momentarily on the Loughborough defence after a chested half-volley shot from Hannah Greenwood. The shot floated over the bar but the goalkeeper would not have put any amount of money on it missing the target, neither would the crowd for that matter.
Into the second half there was not much to report in the early stages, both teams finding their feet again on an ice-cold evening at Maiden Castle, the keepers were able to practice their kicking game with plenty of long balls not really amounting to anything.
Loughborough’s keeper sprung into action when needed, a 57th minute free kick found a Durham head with the keeper making a spectacular save tipping it just over the bar. People are still asking how she kept that one out.
Five minutes later and Loughborough doubled their lead. Their number nine curling the ball over Mackain from 25 yards out.
Durham came close to scoring with a few half chances, one of which being from a Jade Barrell run. But Durham would get on the scoresheet in the 86th minute with a beautiful finish from Hannah Greenwood? The number 7 made a clever move down the left and beat the keeper at her near post.
Bringing one back certainly instilled a bit more belief in the Durham side. However, the goal came late on and there just didn’t seem to be enough left in the tank for the purple clad team to grab an all-important equaliser. The score was 2-1 to Loughborough on the final whistle.
Speaking to Team Durham after the game, captain Freya Bailes gave her assessment, “It was a really tough game, the girls did so well. We were unlucky to concede two, the second goal was quality from them.
“Their keeper pulled off some worldie saves but I have never been so proud of the girls. The atmosphere was incredible and it is a great occasion to raise a lot of money for a great cause.”
After a quick hot food break, DUAFC vs Loughborough immediately followed. DUAFC entered the game as underdogs looking for some vital points against a Loughborough side above them in the Men’s Premier North League.
Durham opened the scoring within the first five minutes; a Tom Hibbit goal put Durham ahead and set them up for a comfortable first half.
Perhaps the only wobbly moment of the first 45 was a slip on the frosty astro from Gourley which could have let Loughborough in. Thankfully, Coombes was quickly out to clear up any danger.
Loughborough maintained a spell of possession midway through the first half, but not much was created through the press of the Durham side. On the 34th minute, Durham showed Loughborough how to take their chances with a bullet header from Merret off a floated Clark corner.
Durham were far more clinical in their attacks, boasting trailblazing Clark runs and fancy feet from Camarda.
The Durham crowd found an extra bit of entertainment from Loughborough’s number three whose socks didn’t quite seem to reach below the knee. Whether this was a homage to Jack Grealish or an unfortunate shrinkage incident remains to be seen, but constant jeers of ‘Socks’ from the stands did nothing to help a Loughborough free kick that fell to the left back in the opening stages of the second half.
The second half was end to end. Loughborough, again, not taking their chances partly due to Coombes making himself big and clearing the ball before their number nine could think about a shot.
A Clark lightening run down the right was met by Flint who couldn’t convert. But more runs down the left were rewarded by Durham’s third goal on the 70-minute mark which had surely put the game to bed.
But Loughborough were not down and out yet. In the space of two minutes Loughborough found the back of the net twice. Cries for offside reverberated through the stand but the first goal stood. The second came from a corner and the tide of the game had completely changed on the 85th minute.
A last-minute equaliser never really looked likely but the game became scrappy in the closing stages. Durham’s defensive line was strong and Loughborough attacks were always cleared.
On the final whistle, Sweet Caroline rang around the pitch and Durham secured the 3-2 win.
It was an evening enjoyed by all, not least by the teams themselves at the crowd backing and the success of the charity initiatives.
DUAFC and DUWAFC will continue their campaigns into next term where there will certainly be more twists and turns in the Men’s and Women’s Premier North Leagues.