Friday, July 17, 2009

Match Report: Durham City v East Fife (Friendly - 17/7/09)

Ah the joys of the summer weather in the UK! You're all set for a fun filled weekend away with the lads but torrential rain and thunderstorms leave the second game in your plans, away to Spennymoor, postponed.

A postponement for a waterloged pitch and it's only July!

Thankfully Durham City have an all-weather pitch and that meant that tonight's game was definitely on, come rain or shine. Well let's rule shine out right now!

East Fife took down a pretty young squad, but started the game with what is likely to be Stevie Crawford's preferred starting line up in the middle and defence.

Of the three trialists on display on Tuesday night, only Darren Gourlay made the trip down, so we don't know what to read into that.

The game kicked off a few minutes late and East Fife were soon under pressure and found themselves a goal down after just 6 minutes, when Durham's new signing, and a man marked to watch in AFTN's trip preview, Paul Brayson opened the scoring, capitalising on a slip by Jonny Smart to knock the ball over Michael Brown in the Fife goal.

Brayson was snapped up from Newcastle Blue Star in the summer and was the leading scorer in the Unibond North last season. He was proving to be a handful for the Fife defence but an accidental elbow in the face saw him forced to leave the game after just a quarter of an hour, with blood streaming from his nose.

East Fife nearly tied things up on the 22 minute mark Stuart Cargill brilliantly rounded City keeper Marc Riches but saw his goalbound effort headed off the line by Michael Laws.

The Fife did level though five minutes later, when Bobby Linn hit home after getting on the end of a great through ball from Stevie Crawford that left the City defence helpless.

Then came the bizarre twist of the night!

City keeper Riches went down injured on the half hour mark. With no sub goalie on their bench, East Fife's Andrew Stobie took the gloves for Durham!

The young Fife keeper did well to keep a clean sheet up till half time. Maybe he'll play himself into a transfer!

Durham came out for the second half the hungrier looking side and Marc Walton hit the post for them a few minutes in.

This was starting to be an unlucky day for Durham as striker Alex Benjamin, who had come on for the injured Brayson, got injured himself and had to be replaced just after the hour mark. It wasn't a particularly nasty game, just some pre-season rust perhaps.

With nothing too much of note apart from the usual rash of friendly substitutions, Durham brought on Nathan Bonar with 14 minutes remaining.

Bonar is a good prospect who has just been released by Middlesborough and within five minutes the 18 year old striker had made his mark on the game, lobbing the ball over sub Fife goalie Stewart Baillie to give Durham a 2-1 lead.

Durham's lead was to last only three minutes and it was a mistake by Stobie in the City goal that let in his boss Stevie Crawford to tie things up. Stobie couldn't keep hold of a Cargill effort, giving Stevie an easy finish. Maybe Craw owes Andrew a favour now?!!

The goal was controversial though as Durham's Gary Brown went down injured with a head knock. The ref didn't stop play but the City trainer came on as the ball was on the other side of the park in the build up that led to the goal. We'd not be happy if it had been the reverse, that's for sure!

As the game looked to be heading for a draw, East Fife snatched the winner at the death when Jordyn Sheerin coolly slotted home to send the 40 or so Fife fans that made the trip down home happy.

It was a good win against a good Durham side and although the substitutions and injuries make it hard to know how the game may have turned out otherwise, we're at least heading in the right direction, which is good to see. Our improved fitness levels were also visible, which is a relief after last season, and Durham fans have commented on how well organised our back four looked.

Good luck to Durham for the season ahead. Hopefully the injuries won't derail their attempt at a hat-trick of Championships. We'll certainly be following your exploits closely this season.

Just a pity that the weather has stopped our fine form continuing tomorrow at Spennymoor, although a bounce game has been organised at Durham's ground for the Saturday. I'm sure the players and fans will find ways to occupy themselves down in Durham anyway!

FULL TIME: Durham City 2 - 3 East Fife


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