By Tomas Hill Lopez-Menchero
DUAFC host a crucial national playoff match against University of South Wales this Wednesday. Originally postponed due to the ‘Beast from the East’, the quarter-final will kick off at 15.00 and is one of several knockout clashes taking place at Maiden Castle tomorrow.
The match has taken on added importance for the first team, who narrowly missed out on the Premiership title. Chris Moore’s side conceded a late equaliser at home to Nottingham Trent, meaning the league was out of their hands when they visited Northumbria on the last day of the season.
The 1s did all they could by beating their local rivals 3-1, but Trent won their match against bottom-placed Loughborough by a comfortable 4-1 scoreline to break Durham hearts and secure the title.
Club captain James Fairbrother says this will only spur the side on against South Wales. If Durham win this match, they will face Cardiff Met in the semi-finals, who have already beaten their quarter-final opponents Northumbria.
“We were devastated to come second in the league,” he says. “We were two minutes away from clinching the title before Nottingham Trent equalised at Maiden Castle. That being said, once the playoffs begin, league position doesn’t make much difference; we won the league two years ago and weren’t able to win the nationals, so everything is still to play for.
“This is easily our biggest game of the season so far, and the disappointment of losing the league will act as a huge motivator on Wednesday.”
Fairbrother is confident ahead of the national playoffs and says he believes “we’re the best team left in the competition.” Aside from that final day heartbreak, he says the season has been hugely encouraging and that Durham have been able to “dominate most games and impose our style of play on opponents.”
“Our squad is stronger than it’s ever been,” he says. “The fact that we secured a home draw is important as well – Team Durham’s new pitch is brilliant and it allows us to play at our absolute best. We won’t underestimate USW – they’re also a great team – but we’ll go into the game expecting a win.”
The clash against USW will also be DUAFC’s charity match this season, with any donations going to Sport in Action Zambia, who serve to improve people’s lives through sport and other recreational activities. Team Durham raises thousands for the charity each year, and Fairbrother says they want to “add to the amazing efforts that have gone before us.”
He adds that a strong turnout from Durham supporters is crucial, as “Not only will your attendance on Wednesday help us to win, but you’ll be helping a wonderful charity to continue its work.”
As the last home fixture this academic year, the match will be particularly special for some of the side’s veterans.
“A big crowd would mean the world to us. It’s always better to play in front of an audience, and it would give us a huge boost in our efforts to win. This will be the last home game of our season – and, for some of the lads, their last ever game in Durham – and we’d love to play in front of a massive crowd.”
The women’s first team will be playing against Leeds Beckett at 13.00 in their national playoffs quarter-final, making this a vital afternoon for both DUAFC and DUWAFC. Both games will be live-streamed on Team Durham’s Facebook page, and updates will be tweeted from @DUAFC.
Photograph: Bernadette Wang