Durham City 0 Billingham Synthonia 4 – Ebac Northern League Division Two
Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Sixty minutes.
Ten minutes: A lively start by both teams and a “vertical” opening, with players looking to mostly pass it forward and attack, with not many sideways and backwards passes. It looked quite promising, with Anthony Chapman with the first effort on goal, only to put it straight at Synners keeper Callum Lee Roberts. A couple of minutes later, the visitors’ captain Ben Pollock with a chip pass into the Durham box, just too far in front of Dominic Tiffany to get his head to it.
Both teams were knocking on the door in and around the 18 yard box, with both defences doing just enough to thwart attacks. So far so good.
Twenty minutes: Soon after the promising opening, the game then started to peter out into an untidy game of football. And that was the only note I made until….
Sixty minutes: Just after the half-hour mark: A ray of hope turned the game decisively and emphatically Synners’ way. Connor Smith hit a sharp half volley, with the assistant referee flagging that the ball had crossed the line before being hooked away by a Durham defender. Within two minutes Alex Bruton had made it 2-0, with another half volley. A high, long ball was sent into the Durham box, it was only half cleared straight to Bruton whose shot went under Durham keeper David Smallman. It was a reward for Bruton who’d been the busiest player on the pitch.
Clearances from their own box were a constant problem for the home side throughout the game, piling unnecessary pressure on themselves.
From there Synthonia never looked back, while Durham fell into a rut and couldn’t find a way out of it. The rest of the game belonged to the Synners. They closed the first half off with three shots: two shots by Smith, one put wide and the other straight at Smallman, and then Cameron Wilson with a shot, again straight at the keeper.
They opened the second half with a much better effort when No. 9 Louis Johnson put a curling header goalwards, with Smallman doing well to get his fingertips to it to push it over the bar. For the next 10 minutes Durham were pinned deep into their own half. Another poor clearance was punished in the 50th minute when the attempted kick to clear their lines only went a couple of yards, not even managing to get the ball out of the box. Instead it went straight to Smith who had time to pick his spot and hit it just inside the right hand post to put Synthonia 3-0 up.
The Synners then hit a bit of a purple patch.
In the 64th minute a weak back pass put Smallman under pressure as Johnson bore down on him. Smallman’s attempted clearance hit Johnson but he was too close to control the ball and it rebounded back to Smallman who was able to grab it. In the 67th minute Johnson flicked the ball over a defender for Smith to run on to, but Smallman was able to get to it first. In the 69th minute Max Thomas tried to clear his lines, only for the ball to hit Smith – re-bounding to Smallman. Within seconds Durham’s Thomas Langan produced the tackle of the match when he slid in to dispossess Smith as he was about to shoot.
Inevitably Sythonia’s fourth goal and Smith’s hat-trick came from another poor clearance. Smallman kicked it straight to the No. 10 who was able to tuck away into an empty net. It was a good performance by the Synners. Eventually. It just took them a long time to get going. Durham suffered from too many self-inflicted wounds, the kind that drain confidence and sap morale.