By Kishan Vaghela
Durham University Men’s Football 1st XI set up a semi-final clash with either arch rivals Loughborough University or the University of South Wales in the BUCS Football Championship after a dramatic 5-3 penalty-shootout win over University of Bath’s 1st XI at Maiden Castle.
The two sides cancelled each other out for the majority of the opening exchanges, with the only potential threat coming from wide areas. Whilst Bath were the team to put more crosses into the box, it was the Palatinates who would have the first effort of the game, with King’s shot deflected over the bar after Heald’s cut-back. The hosts’ threat persisted, with Green curling an effort wide after a crisp one-two with King, before Heald poked wide of the near post after cleverly beating a couple of players.
Green in particular enjoyed success on the left-hand side, committing the Bath full-back into making a series of fouls which eventually culminated in a yellow card for the visitors’ right-back. Weedon headed over from one of the resulting King free-kicks, whilst Green stung the hands of Bath goalkeeper Barrington, who gathered at the second attempt with Isola lurking, from distance.
At the opposite end, Durham’s Dudzinski had a relatively quiet afternoon by comparison, although he did have to be alert to gather after a mini scramble in the penalty area from a Bath free-kick. Consequently, Durham created further chances to take the lead before the break, but Gilbey’s left-footed curler was tipped over by Barrington, before the Bath goalkeeper came to their rescue again after saving a low shot from Green.
Green’s influence on the game did not diminish in the second half, although Barrington was on hand again to deny him after a Durham break. However, the Palatinates were, by their extremely high standards, a little careless in possession, which allowed Bath to break and duo Elliott Blair and Josh Hutchinson to pose the hosts’ back line a problem.
Heald and Green were unlucky with further opportunities, the former seeing a shot pass just wide of Barrington’s far post after a delicious swivel in the area whilst also failing to jump high enough to convert Gilbey’s cross. The latter struck another right-footed effort wide from distance before his nemesis Barrington denied his left-footed drive with a superb one-handed low save.
Despite Barrington’s heroics, the best save of the match arguably came from Durham’s goalkeeper, who tipped a free header over the bar after a Bath break. The hosts had late chances to snatch the win, but once again Green was thwarted by Barrington after another give-and-go with King, whilst the captain had a chance of his own but he nodded wide from a corner, sending the tie into extra time.
Durham substitute Philpott had the best chances of the first half of extra time, but his tame effort following Isola’s through ball was easily dealt with by Barrington, before he came close to connecting with Wells’ free-kick at the far post from just a few yards out. As tiredness really began to take its toll, the game became slightly more stretched, with both sides having excellent opportunities to take the lead.
Another Durham substitute, Grant, had a header tipped onto the bar by Barrington, but it was Bath’s Tumelty who would miss a gilt-edged chance, curling wide from inside the box with only the keeper to beat. Both sides similarly pressed for a winner in the second period of extra time, but with no further chances, the game was left to be decided by a penalty shootout.
King, Heald and Grant all converted their penalties for the Palatinates before the crucial moment arrived when Dudzinski denied Hutchinson. Wells and Gilbey then assured the home side of their victory by scoring their penalties to confirm the Palatinates’ progress through to the semi-finals.
Photograph: Kishan Vaghela