Durham 1st XI’s cup run came to an abrupt end last Wednesday as they were beaten 3-0 by a well-drilled University of South Wales team. With the league title secured last term and following a tremendous victory against Bath in the quarter final, the stage seemed set for the 1st XI to make history. However Durham were ruthlessly punished for their lacklustre defending at set pieces, from which the Welsh team plundered their decisive goals to win the game.
The opening stages were unsurprisingly cagey and chances were scarce. Around the 15 minute mark, McGrath got the better of the UoSW full back with a mazy run. Bursting into the penalty area, he astutely cut the ball back to King who sold the centre back with an outrageous dummy, only for his shot to be blocked, allowing the Welsh side to clear.
Soon UoSW took control of the game. A counter attack down the right wing saw a dangerous cross whipped into the box. Dudzinski was alert and managed to tip the ball off the head of the striker. However from the subsequent corner, Dudzinski was not so fortunate. The corner was hit deep to the back post and then expertly flicked back into the fray by an unmarked winger. A UoSW striker was quickest to react and bundled the ball home to put the visitors 1-0 ahead.
Things soon got worse for Durham. Once again, a set piece was the home team’s undoing. A free kick was delivered from the left and was looped high up into the air by one of the UoSW’s burly centre backs. The defence were slow to react to the deflection and the ball was clinically nodded into the net by an opportunistic striker to make it 2-0.
Despite being behind, Durham continued to play their football. However the visitors were content to suffocate the game through a combination of organised defending and some cynical challenges. Several players picked up bookings and tempers looked to be boiling over as Durham became frustrated with the referee’s leniency towards some challenges.
Near the end of the half, Durham began to carve out some opportunities. King managed to beat two defenders with a weaving run before his shot was blocked by a last ditch challenge by the centre back. In another move, Green smartly cut inside the visitor’s right back, creating space to shoot. Unfortunately, he could only drag his effort wide. The second half ended in a heated fashion as Durham picked up two bookings in a fracas sparked by a late Durham tackle.
Despite Durham’s need to score, it was Cardiff who began the second half with the chance of the game. The crossbar rescued Durham going 3-0 down via a rasping half volley from the visitor’s right winger. The home side continued to work hard but they could not breach the impregnable UoSW defence.
Midway through the second half, it was game over from yet another set piece. A UoSW corner was met with a thumping header which Dudzinski produced an unbelievable save to keep it out and then block the rebound. Nevertheless in the ensuing scramble, the ball crept in, to the visitor’s jubilation and Durham’s despair.
The home team continued to solider on but the result was now a formality. The visitors ran the clock down and soon the final whistle arrived to herald the end of Durham’s cup dreams.
Photograph: Kieran Moriarty