DERWENT 3-2 VANBRUGH
Images: Lily Grant
Derwent hero and man of the match Dan Atherton was the catalyst in an epic second half comeback that shocked Vanbrugh, with Derwent pulling back a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2, putting them in pole position to win the college football Winter League.
With Derwent 2-0 down at half time, it looked as if they may crumble in a must win game for both sides, but two Atherton goals and an 89th minute winner from Ryan Gwinett saw Derwent complete a truly remarkable comeback victory on a chilly 3G pitch.
The first 20 minutes was dominated by Vanbrugh, with their midfield keeping the ball well, with slick movement and delicate touches from Callum Woodall and Harry O’Brien as holding midfielders.
Vanbrugh were rewarded for their patient play early on after a reckless tackle from Mirhire Overo-Tarimo inside the box on Phil Taylor gave Vanbrugh a penalty. Taylor was ruthless, blasting the ball past keeper Rory Franklin.
With Vanbrugh 1-0 up, Derwent were being bossed around the pitch, unable to retain any kind of possession.
Left back Chris Wignall threatened with a clever cross, but Derwent were able to clear their lines. Taylor also had a good opportunity early on, but that was also cleared.
As the first half progressed, Derwent’s defence pressed harder, and as they built up momentum they had an excellent chance through David Kirk who hit the crossbar with an great attempt at goal.
Derwent pressed for an equaliser, but Vanbrugh’s defence and the excellent goalkeeping of James Wilson were seemingly impregnable, and just before half-time Rob Rix slotted away an excellent goal for Vanbrugh off a free kick over the top of the defence.
With Vanbrugh in command at 2-0 up and their tactic to keep the ball upfront and hit Taylor’s feet working well, it looked very much as if they were going to topple the league leaders, but Derwent had other plans.
Early on Vanbrugh’s Kieran O’Dwyer had a chance to add another goal, but Franklin made a fantastic stretch to just tip the ball over the bar.
Derwent now looked to command the game, bossing the midfield and moving the ball around with the same slick workman-like efficiency that had been so effective for Vanbrugh in the first half.
They were soon rewarded as forward Atherton blasted home a goal past Wilson.
Derwent were now determined to level and had another great chance later on as the play turned messy, but Wilson was able to just about control the ball and save it.
No one could have expected what happened next, however. As Derwent looked to press at a corner, Atherton confirmed his superstar status with a breath-taking goal from a corner. He calmly and coldly to took the corner, which curled delicately round and found itself nestled in the back of the net, no-one able to get a hand or boot to it in time.
With the scores now level at 2-2, it was game on.
As Vanbrugh looked to play out for a draw, the game seemed to be headed that way. Vanbrugh sat back deep as fitness told and Derwent began to dominate possession. Vanbrugh were struggling to live with the physicality with which Derwent were playing with.
It looked as if Atherton could have sealed the game for Derwent, but Wilson again was able to make a truly exquisite save, palming the ball over the crossbar.
In the final ten minutes Vanbrugh had a brief chance to snatch an unlikely victory through a Taylor shot, as Overo-Tarimo and Woodall managed to entertain the crowd with a messy punch up, but it was not to be.
The game looked destined for a draw, but Atherton had other ideas as he set up Gwinett to score a last gasp winner and seal a truly remarkable comeback victory.
Derwent captain David Kirk was elated at the final whistle, saying ecstatically, “I’m very pleased, we started slowly and gave them a lead, but they bottled it. Our football won through in the end… Dan Atherton changed the game with his goals. We’ll take each game as it comes, next week’s big, but we have a good depth of squad.”
Vanbrugh captain Johnny Grout was visibly disappointed, but still drew positives from the game: “I think we started well. We deserved to be up at half time. Sadly we lost our shape and they just held the ball really well. They probably deserved to get that last goal.”
With Derwent now five points clear at the top of the table with 13 points, James must win their next two games, the final is due to be against Derwent, if they hope to topple the defending champions. The final week of the season looks to be an absolute cracker.