Durham United crush Durham City in fiery derby

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Durham United compounded Durham City’s horrendous season with a 5-0 victory that laid bare the problems the league’s bottom club are facing. A hat-trick from Billy Clark put the game beyond City, who then received two red cards late in the game.

United maintained possession for the majority of the game and it only took them nine minutes to break the deadlock. The right-winger won the ball high and right, before putting a fantastic ball into the box. Clark’s header was almost miraculously clawed away by the City goalkeeper, but the ball found its way in off the left post.

Within ten minutes the ball was in the net again. Striker Freddie Hodgson battled well with a retreating defender, earning himself the time to lay the ball into the path of Clark, whose shot across the City keeper was well-placed.

However, City dug their heels in and defended admirably for the remainder of the first half. More chances came for Clark, but he pushed an excellent one-on-one chance into the keeper. Eirik Abney unleashed a thunderbolt that was once gain dealt with competently by the City keeper.

Small murmurs went through the crowd as City’s player-manager brought himself on around the 35th minute — an indication of the dire straits the team had found themselves in.

Finally, City had a chance of their own just before half-time. The stadium fell into a stunned silence for a split second, but the tension deflated once the ball had curled just past the post from an effort from outside the box. United, seeking to prove this was a one-off, immediately manufactured a golden opportunity, but Clark’s shots — one high and wide, one a tame prod into the keeper’s legs — brought an end to the half.

Just like the first half, City’s keeper proved he was not the reason they were bottom of the league. A smart save from the luckless Hodgson was followed by a double save from Clark, who would have to wait to complete his hattrick.

City’s keeper proved he was not the reason they were bottom of the league

However, the keeper’s great performance quickly evaporated. Running past an opposition player after a failed square ball, he grabbed their throat, remarkably finding himself in no trouble with the referee.

As ever with football, it came back to bite. Clark stood over a well-placed kick, which was whipped into the near corner. Appearing to dive in slow motion, City’s number one spilled the shot into the side netting. Ostensibly disappointed, he hung his head as Clark wheeled away to gingerly celebrate his hat-trick.

And yet, the keeper continued to be the centre of the action. A United player dropped to floor during a free kick scuffle, earning a penalty. The goalkeeper saved sharply in exactly the same position he let the free kick in, pushing a strong shot away. Judging by his screams at his defenders, you would’ve thought he hadn’t given the penalty away himself.

With ten minutes to go, United number four Christian Pestell slid the ball neatly into the back of the net from a cute cutback for a fourth goal. By this point, many of the City players were more interested in the United players than the ball.

City’s number four, who had been remarkably solid for the struggling side, lunged into a tackle. His foot rolled over the top of the ball, bringing his momentum into the opposition player’s leg. Swiftly, the referee produced a red card, unperturbed by the jostling and shouting he was subjected to from numerous players.  

Seemingly inspired by his teammate, City’s number six elevated his play style from wasteful and frustrated to outright dangerous. Having sent five or six crosses out for goal kicks, he then ran into five successive crunching tackles, interchanging choice words with a man in the stands.

Hodgson latched onto a zippy through ball and slotted cleanly past the keeper for the team’s fifth and final goal of the evening. It may have been about his seventh attempt, but he deserved his goal for his tirelessness nevertheless.

To round off the match, City’s number six eventually earned his red card that had been coming for every single one of the 89th minutes he was on the pitch. Incredulous at being given a second yellow for a blatant tug on Abney, he exchanged more words with the crowd and disappeared into the tunnel, doors slamming behind him.

Once the full-time whistle was blown, multiple City players refused to shake hands with United players. They go into their next game with -151 goal difference and with suspended players. One does not envy the task the players and manager have.

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