By Will Jennings
With the seemingly ubiquitous presence of rugby, hockey and cricket players, you’d be forgiven for assuming that focus on footballing success at Durham remains somewhat limited.
But that’s where you’d be wrong. Despite the plethora of sports on offer at the university, football proudly sits amongst those most popular with students, providing an escape from the weekly grind of the degree and uniting eleven players during ninety minutes of competition, physicality and intensity.
With the advent of the New Crumb at Maiden Castle and the recent triumphs of the men’s and women’s university teams, such popularity is clear.
Having played seven games, the women’s team sit unambiguously top of the BUCS Northern Premier League, having won all seven and possessing a game in hand ahead of Northumbria, who currently lie two points behind.
In the men’s league, Chris Moore’s progressing side sit second in the male equivalent of the competition, two points behind Nottingham Trent having won three out of their six games so far.
Such success demonstrates the health of Durham football. The women’s team are seeking to continue their already significant unbeaten run of 20 games, and there are no signs of this form abating.
Following their 2-2 draw at Birmingham a fortnight ago, the men’s side welcome bottom of the table Loughborough to the north-east on Wednesday with an eye on intensifying the pressure on the East Midlands table-toppers and extending their lead over Northumbria, who lie third at the time of writing.
The success of both teams has not gone unnoticed. Four of the men’s side have been invited to the British University trials in Manchester, while five of the women’s side will attend the female equivalent in an attempt to represent their country.
Such recognition is testament to the ability Durham continues to foster, providing promising young talent with a platform to achieve further success.
For the men, winger Matty Cornish has been a standout performer, scoring seven goals in the six games the side have played. Meanwhile, striker James Philpott has contributed three goals, while midfielder Tom Isola – who has recently represented Gibraltar at under-21 level – has chipped in with two. Despite failing to keep a clean-sheet in any of their games so far, the side’s goal difference of six remains healthy and the second best in the league.
The women’s side have achieved even more marked triumph, keeping two clean sheets and recently defeating Leeds Beckett and Loughborough 5-1 away from home. Star performers have included Mercy Darkoah and Nicki Gears, the latter of whom netted a hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Beckett.
Such triumph looks set to continue over the coming weeks. With winnable fixtures scheduled before the Christmas break for both the men’s and women’s sides, the two teams will be seeking to strengthen their assault on the summit of their respective league tables.
Given their current form and the confidence both sets of players currently possess, you’d expect nothing but more success.
Photograph: Briana Rose Norton (@ItsBrianaNorton) via Twitter