College Varsity Men’s Football: James 2-7 Hatfield

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Photos: Zoe Bennell

Despite racing into an early lead through Matt Singleton, James were always second best in a contest where Durham’s premier football college barely had to get out of first gear. For most of the first half James fought hard, but quickly found themselves put to the sword by impressive interplay between Durham midfielders. Singleton would complete a brace late on, but the match, and the vital Varsity points, were well out of reach by that stage.

Matt Singleton slammed home the earliest of early leads within four minutes of the kickoff. A luscious Mandeep Sangha curling through ball got the James striker free by the byline. Singleton beautifully jinked inside a Durham defender and drilled the ball in at the near post when he had no right to. It was 1-0, and York was in dreamland.

James continued to be bright and incisive as Freddie Ferrao raced clear on a mazy run and placed finish which the Hatfield goalkeeper had to get down quickly to block with his legs. Hatfield were still struggling to wake up when a Joe Fox cushioned volley caused the keeper no end of trouble at his near post, but he eventually held well.

Soon after, Hatfield got themselves into the game against the run of play. A low ball across the box was not dealt with by Amir Alhasan or Callum Elliott, and the ball was drilled home at the far post. James redoubled their efforts at 1-1, and Matt Singleton was in the thick of the action once more, cutting across goal but lacking conviction with his low strike which flashed wide of the near post.

Another galling Hatfield goal against the run of play followed and it began to look like they were embracing James’ attacking efforts before cutting them up on the break. A pacy run from a Hatfield midfielder took him beyond Balzan after a great turn, allowing him to slot beneath the James ‘keeper’s body and give Durham the lead.

It was now that James’ tempo appeared to go flat, but Andy Balzan could have done nothing about a ball which deflected off him following a great floated pass into a Durham striker. He watched in dismay as the ball rebounded back into the empty net. There was time for a Hatfield fourth before the interval, another lovely through ball putting a Hatfield striker through, and he made no mistake rolling under Balzan for 4-1.

Though Freddie Ferrao would continue to get some joy down the left flank following the restart, Callum Elliott would blot his copybook with an own goal when he attempted to head away another cute Hatfield through ball- he found only the back of his own net. It was five, and James were flagging badly, frustrated by their inability to get close enough to Hatfield when they attacked in tandem with their own earlier profligacy in front of goal.

It was six following a wonderful reflex double save from Balzan. James failed to clear the resultant melee in the penalty area, and the ball was half-volleyed home from point blank range. The seventh was academic as Balzan floundered in the wake of some intelligent Hatfield passing, the final nail in the James coffin trickling under the keeper’s body and securing Durham the points.

Matt Singleton had time to score the goal of the game though, curling beautifully over the keeper on the turn from the edge of the area. It is a shame it was little more than a consolation.

JAMES: (4-5-1): Balzan, Sangha, Alhasan, Elliott, Edwards, Jopson, Fox, Spurling, Haresnape, Ferrao, Singleton

Subs: Briars, Axford, Baker