BUCS Northern 1A
Wednesday saw a rare home loss at fortress York Sports Village for the Women’s Firsts, in a game which perennial conquerors Durham dominated from start to finish. The fact that York struggled, at times, against a tactically astute, highly efficient visiting side is no blot on their copybook in the slightest. Durham Seconds win BUCS Northern 1A every season, only prevented from promotion by the presence of the Firsts in the division above. The Black and Gold showed a residual team spirit, energy and application- none of which would budge regardless of the scoreline- sure to serve them well in the second half of the campaign.
Even from the earliest probing, it became apparent that the away team would prove an immovable object defensively. They embarked on a suffocating, full court press which left goaltender Beth Reynolds with few options for distributing the ball. Libby Storick, typically an indelible influence on proceedings, was kept relatively quiet- marshalled into anonymity by Durham’s defensive diamond.
York were unable to throw such a blanket over Durham’s forward fervour. They opened the scoring, having shrugged off fresher Abbey Marcroft’s challenge. In an attempt to exert pressure on the ball, the home defence pushed up onto the ball-carrier, leaving space in behind which was ruthlessly exposed for 2-0.
While Durham were able to move the ball and manipulate York’s backline with inimitable ease, the hosts found it tough to find their way out of their own territory: Rebecca Pay-Savage’s inability to hoover up a loose ball invited a rampant strike force into York’s half. After it became 3-0 and 4-0 in arrears, York opted for a tactical time-out to rally the troops, with Claire Thomas at the heart of efforts to gee up her flagging team-mates.
Although Durham kept out captain Chloe Searle, Connie Shaw would get her name on the scoresheet at 5-1, with a downward, timber-chopping movement laced with power and vengeance at her side’s plight. With 25 minutes on the clock, Libby Storick breached their back-line, bustling through to make it 6-2.
Alas, Durham continued to transfer the ball at a pace which was immeasurably difficult to defend against. Their pattern of attack was virtually unerring; although their coach called a myriad of different plays, the angles of offense they adopted were similar throughout. As the saying goes, it is one thing to know about a threat and quite another to stop it.
The constant, insistent communication provided by Kitty Leech and Laura Carruthers, even when the pair were watching from the sidelines, was symptomatic of the team’s resolve. Carruthers in particular acquitted herself very well in man-marking Durham’s forward, a holder of England international honours, no less.
Having gone into the break 9-2 down, York begun to exert more control over proceedings, but remained unable to find their clinical touch in attacking areas. Fenella Houlton, effervescent against Manchester, had a quiet afternoon. Neither Storick, Thomas, nor Joy Mendes de Sousa could convert their free positions, while Shaw had a couple of promising efforts saved.
Sometimes in sport, more is learned in defeat than in victory. Undoubtedly, this team have a much sharper view of their progress as a unit after this 12-3 loss than they gleaned from their comprehensive maulings of Manchester and Leeds Beckett at home by yawning margins. Durham profit from a full-time coach- who guided her team vocally through each and every play- and much more training contact time to hone their skills and crucially, to develop such impervious organisation.
York, for their part, have played each team in the league once, and aside from Durham, no opposition has proved out of their reach. The Black and Gold must cling on to the positives and avenge their unjust away defeat to Newcastle in the return fixture next week.
York: Reynolds, Carruthers, Pay-Savage, Leech, Marcroft, Searle, Shaw, Storick, Thomas, Moylett, Mendes de Sousa, Nicholson, Houlton
Player of the Match: Laura Carruthers