UNIVERSITY OF YORK FIRSTS 2
UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM THIRDS 1
BUCS Cup Semi-Final – Wednesday 24th February
A golden goal winner from Dan Alder snatched York a dramatic victory in the semi-final of the Men’s Northern Conference Cup against Durham thirds today. The dramatic finale, met with roars from the York crowd, ensured York secured passage to the final of the competition. It was a deserved victory for the home side who dominated large patches of the game, leading captain Andy McIlwraith to describe the performance as “amazing”.
York lined up with their conventional diamond formation, with Luke Featherstone stepping in at centre back for the injured McIlwraith. McIlwraith remained on the touchline however, barking instructions at his teammates and he would have been very pleased with his side’s start; the ball was passed around nicely before Niko Bode was sent away down the right with the chance to show his appreciable pace, his cross found its way to Alder whose shot was smothered by Andy Evans in the Durham goal.
It was a really confident start from the York team but soon after Durham counter-attacked nicely and ‘keeper Sam Harriman was forced into a smart save. Normal service was resumed and some more good work from Bode, who was enjoying a brilliant start, led to a short corner that was kept out by Durham’s defence. The home side were camped outside the visitors’ ‘D’ and it seemed it was a matter of time before they would take the lead.
In the latest of a catalogue of chances James Branton was afforded too much time and space on the right wing and was able to hit in a dangerous cross, which unfortunately none of his teammates could convert. Another short corner proved fruitless before a splendid spell of passing saw Billy Walsh pick out Rob Newton in the Durham ‘D’, unfortunately for the potential York Sport Presidential candidate he was unable to get his shot away.
Niko Bode wheels away in clenched-fist celebration after Dan Alder fires home York’s golden goal winner. Photograph by Peter Iveson.
Durham then had their best chance of the game. Another classic breakaway saw Oscar Trace round Harriman in the York net but the angle was too tight and, with the goal gaping, his shot trickled wide. At the other end Henry Mellor produced a carbon copy of Trace’s effort, rounding the ‘keeper as well before being unable to find the finish. The half had, so far, been all York but Durham fought back in the latter stages forcing two short corners, neither of which they could convert. Despite this York would have been happy with their first half performance, they looked confident, up for it and, on another day, might have been two or three up.
Minutes in to the second-half the deadlock was broken. Pinball in the Durham ‘D’ allowed the ball to fall to Branton who smashed the ball high into the roof of the net. It was nothing less than York deserved and the players and fans celebrated accordingly. If anything the goal seemed to panic the away side who continued to gift possession to York at any opportunity.
Two more short corners went by for York before Evans in the Durham goal produced a smart save to deny captain for the day Andy Harris. With the game seemingly York’s Durham got back on level terms. A penalty flick was awarded and Trace converted to level arrears. With ten minutes left both sides seemed to settle for the lottery of extra time and the golden goal because there were no more chances of note.
Rob Newton looks for space to turn in during this afternoon’s semi-final. Photograph by Peter Iveson.
The talk in the York huddle was that extra-time was “the biggest fifteen minutes of the season so far” and the York boys seemed to respond to this with Bode’s run down the wing culminating in him pulling the ball back from the byline to find Alder who swept home to secure a berth in the final. The pile-on that ensued demonstrated just how much it meant to the players, with the supporters on the touchline equally happy.
McIlwraith spoke of his pride at this being the “furthest we’ve got” and said “the boys played really well” adding that “now we’ve got to do it in BUCS” as York face the same opposition in the league in a week’s time. Durham’s goalkeeper Andy Evans probably summed up the performance best; “It was an absolutely brilliant game. I’ve played against York for three years and this was the best game they have played against us.” Here’s hoping York’s opponents in the final will be echoing Evan’s sentiments.