Loughborough University’s Men’s Football 1st XI ended Durham’s unbeaten start to the season with a 2-1 victory at Maiden Castle.
With such high-profile sides going head-to-head, the opening exchanges were understandably cagey and extremely physical, with both attempting the long-ball game.
Nevertheless, Durham’s King executed a lovely overhead skill before setting up Heald, whose tame shot was saved by Loughborough goalkeeper Ben Lancaster.
Dave Green’s whipped cross-shot narrowly evaded the far corner as Durham slowly eased themselves into the game, with King again the orchestrator of the Palatinates’ attacking play.
However, Loughborough did pose a threat on the counter attack, with only a last-ditch challenge from Gilbey denying left-back Andrew Bridge of a clear sight of goal.
The pressure of the situation was evident throughout the first half an hour, as Gilbey mistimed his header when well-placed following a corner.
However, it was the visitors who took the lead, as a seemingly innocuous long ball was tapped past the advancing Dudzinski by Webb.
The Durham goalkeeper was nonetheless able to prevent a second goal, tipping Ward-Cockren’s rasping effort from inside the area over the bar. A late surge just before the interval would have seen Durham level, but for the excellence of Lancaster.
After two handball appeals were immediately dismissed by the referee following free kicks from Isola, the Loughborough goalkeeper tipped King’s curling free-kick over the bar, whilst also saving from a stretching Weedon from a few yards out after King’s shot was blocked.
Durham began the second half as they ended the first, with King’s clipped shot going agonisingly close to levelling the scores. Loughborough were simultaneously threatening on the counter, with winger Papa Asamoah heavily involved.
Having prevented a second goal in the first half, Dudzinski almost nullified his efforts by completely mishitting a clearance, but Ward-Cockren’s resulting shot was equally as poor. The Palatinates continued to create chances, but an equalizer remained elusive as substitute striker Fairbrother blazed over after Heald’s cut-back.
The hosts were not to be denied though, as substitute Grant hammered in the leveller after a knockdown from a corner.
Immediately afterwards, King’s marauding run from deep almost inspired the most stunning of comebacks, but his shot smashed against Lancaster’s crossbar.
King’s opposite number Jack Poxon was providing the threat at the other end, first crossing for Ward-Cockren whose header went just wide, before having two efforts of his own, one from a free kick and the second from inside the area, both of which went wide of the near post.
Both sides were seeking a winner, and Durham could so easily have snatched the win late on, but Fairbrother’s shot on the turn and Grant’s long-range effort were both held by Lancaster. Instead, it was the visitors who would have the last laugh, albeit in controversial circumstances.
Loughborough defender Williams headed in from a corner a couple of minutes from time, although the home side felt that Dudzinski was prevented from stopping the ball by a player in an offside position, particularly as the linesman had raised his flag for that particular reason.
However, after consulting with the linesman, the referee overruled him and the goal, which cuts the Palatinates’ lead at the top to six points, stood.
Photograph: Kishan Vaghela