Durham City AFC 1-3 Annfield Plain AFC
It was a big game by all accounts on Saturday. On paper, or to the neutral fan, it may not have looked an interesting fixture, however it was the potential of Durham taking points from a team who are two places above them in the table. The Citizens undeniably have their work cut out and with fixtures coming thick and fast, the team still sitting on 0 points and the team above them sitting on 9 points. Every point is important. Taking them from fellow bottom of the table neighbours is even more important.
The game started off well, with Durham in the ascendancy, as they raced out from the first whistle and pressed Annfield. New signing Kaya Bodur, was quick off the mark to illustrate his skill, speed and tenacity. Despite not playing competitive football for sometime, Bodur did not look at out of place and was a huge dangerous threat out on the right wing. Despite Durham losing Lennox Magalhaes earlier in the week, it seems the Citizens have found a brilliant replacement already.
Within the first four minutes, Andrew Pritchard found himself through on goal after beating the offside trap and fired his shot towards the near post, but unfortunately saw his shot just tipped wide.
Durham continued to mount pressure and press Annfield, once again getting an opportunity to get in front just a few minutes later when Jordon Southern managed to run in between the opponents back line and just had the keeper to beat. Yet, once again, Durham saw their shot saved and tipped out for a corner.
The Citizens continued to push and looked to be a threat on the counter. The wings being a very dangerous place for the citizens to create opportunities and look to either cross into the box or to play a ball in behind the defence.
In the 17th minute, Andrew Pritchard found himself free once more and was through on goal, but yet again, Annfield's keeper pulled out the heroics and got down low to save his shot. It would have been easy for Durham to become frustrated with the lack of clinical edge to their game, yet they continued to mount attacks at Annfield and their resilience paid dividends when in the 22nd minute, Durham took the lead. Two of the most dangerous players on the pitch linked up, with Kaya Bodur working some magic on the right wing before cutting it back from Andrew Pritchard to finish first time. Hope began to build.
However, it wouldn't be easy and the citizens still had their work cut out. Fortunately for them, Liam Peverley was in fantastic form once again in the Durham goal and pulled off some stunning consecutive saves, but none better than the superb diving save to tip the ball over the crossbar from a free kick. It wasn't just Peverley who pulled off heroics, as Alex Gudgeon was also extremely motivated and made two brilliant consecutive blocks outside of Durham's box to prevent the shot.
The pendulum started to shift after Durham's goal and despite pushing for a second, City found themselves on the back foot and trying to defend their lead. Peverley and co continued to keep their side in the game and looked set to keep the 1-0 advantage into half-time. But just before the referee blew the whistle to signal the break, he awarded a penalty to Annfield after their player was brought down in the box. A gut punch for City. Fingers were crossed that Peverley could be a hero, however he had no chance. Despite guessing the right way, the penalty was well struck into the bottom left corner and just out of reach.
The lads heads seemed to drop after conceding the equaliser and Annfield sensed that the team were there for taking. Once again, Peverley continued to pull off save after save to keep the score level and would likely have felt frustrated by the constant barrage of attacks, as Durham struggled to get out of their half. In the 54th minute, City made two substitutes. Bringing off Kaya Bodur and Andrew Pritchard off for Kian Patton and Mark McShane respectively. Bodur, who had been a key attacking player, seeming to pick up a knock and was a huge miss when he left the pitch.
The game slowed after these changes, as what followed was a period of roughly 10 minutes of stop start football, with fouls, offside calls, tackles and challenges flying in, both teams looking to get the edge over the other. However, it was Annfield who came out on top and in the 68th minute they took the lead against the run of play and City looked stunned in disbelief, wondering how this game got away from them. To the lads credit, they continued to try and get something from the game and another two substitutes were made, with Luke Elves and Preston Gredziak coming off for Teejay and Juan D Carpio.
The former, trying to create and use his speed out on the right wing to create a chance for an equaliser. City kept fighting, but truthfully their heads still seemed to be dropped from Annfield's equaliser. In the dying minutes of the game, Annfield finished Durham off, making the score 3-1 from a corner, with the whistling blowing for full time just moments after.
Durham were made to kick themselves for not making the most of their opportunities and increasing their goal advantage in the first half, particularly with the three clear one on one chances in the opening 15 minutes which should have seen City 3-0 up. The lads continue to improve, but fall to the old footballing cliche of a tale of two halves, with the second a one they will want to quickly forget.
The lads are at home again this Saturday against Durham United.